For the past 102 years, the annual St. Ann’s Italian Festival, which will kick off on Wednesday, July 24 and run through Sunday, July 28, has been an integral part of Hoboken culture. Whether you’ve lived across the street from the Jefferson Street church your entire life, or have only been to Hoboken a few times, it’s likely you’ve heard of the festival, a staple of the Hudson County Italian community.
The festival is held around St. Ann’s Church at Seventh and Jefferson streets. It honors the patron saint of women, mothers, and those attempting to become pregnant. Fittingly, St. Ann was also the grandmother of Jesus.
The festival’s highlight is a procession. Female parishioners, sometimes barefoot as a show of reverence and sacrifice, carry the statue of St. Ann through the street. For 101 years, the women bore the full weight of the statue, but last year, for the first time, it was placed on wheels.
“This is really a family of faith coming to express that faith together.” -- Father Remo Salvatore
Father Remo DiSalvatore, who only joined St. Ann’s as its parish pastor this year but was an invited guest of the church to preach during the festival 10 years ago, said that the festival is a magical event for more reasons than one.
“What struck me then, and what really still strikes me now, is the devotion of the parish to this festival,” he said. “This is really a family of faith coming to express that faith together.”
He also said that despite the change in how the statue was carried (“Some of the women are getting older,” he joked) the procession itself is a profound show of faith.
“I think it’s a credit to them, that they still do it,” he said. “It is very touching.”
Fun for the whole family
As anyone who’s been to the festival before knows, it’s much more than a spiritual event. In fact, it can turn into quite the party. Famous for its zeppole, an Italian fried dough pastry, the festival’s food choices are popular, and will include Italian sausages as well.
Music is also a mainstay of the festival, and this year there will be a variety of performances, including one by former New York Yankee Bernie Williams and his All-Star Band at 8:15 p.m. on Thursday, July 25.
Other performers include La Caribena (July 24), Philip Alongi and Friends (July 26), Lime (July 27), and the Bronx Wanderers (July 28).
The festival also includes drinks, rides, games, crafts, and raffles.
The festival has made lists of events for tourists to visit, and in 1984, Pres. Ronald Reagan and Frank Sinatra stopped by.
According to Father DiSalvatore, the festival is a fantastic opportunity for new residents to get to know Hoboken better by engaging in a long-standing staple of its culture.
“For over 100 years this has been a place where people come together with their family and friends, but its even more fitting now that the entire complexion of Hoboken is changing,” he said. “We have many new families in town, and it’s important to maintain certain aspects of our culture, so this is a great way for them to get in touch with that culture.”
The festival will run from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on July 24 and 25. It will run from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. July 26 through 28.
For more information on the festival, call (201) 659-1114 or visit www.st-annchurch.com.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org