Story and photos by Gregory A. Shemitz
Faith. Food. Fun.
These words succinctly describe the focus of the festive five-day feast at St. Rocco Church, Glen Cove, that each summer honors the parish patron and celebrates the Italian-American traditions of its parishioners.
The self-proclaimed “Best Feast in the East” features special prayer services from midweek through the weekend and prepares enough food to feed the thousands of people who are drawn to the event every year.
This past Sunday, the final day of the feast, parish pastor Father Daniel Nash, Can. Reg., was the main celebrant and homilist at a bilingual English-Italian Mass. The liturgy was followed by a more than two-hour religious procession through the neighborhood.
A small group of men pulled and pushed a cart carrying a large statue of St. Rocco, stopping periodically to allow people to pin monetary donations on long ribbons decorating the statue. Father Nash walked ahead of the statue, holding a reliquary containing a relic of the saint, offering it to residents and onlookers for veneration. Other priests in the procession blessed and prayed for people seeking St. Rocco’s intercession.
Meanwhile, back at the church, kitchen workers and volunteers, under the direction of a former restaurant chef, set out trays of food in the parish auditorium (dubbed the “Pasta Pavilion” for the occasion), where hungry patrons would later stand on long lines waiting patiently to be fed.
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By the end of the week, more than 5,500 meatballs, 4,000 pounds of sausages, and 130 trays of eggplant parmigiana had been served. A team of “nonnas” and other volunteers spent five weeks planning and preparing the various dishes.
Additional food options (pizza, zeppole, and fried Oreos, etc.) were available at concession trailers outside the Pasta Pavilion. Amusement park rides and games also added to the festival atmosphere.
The feast day of St. Rocco—who ministered to and cured victims of the plague in Northern Italy in the 14th century—is Aug. 16.