The Giglio is upon us once again.
The Williamsburg religious tradition runs now through July 19 in and around Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church (275 North 8th St.), featuring food, processions and the dance of the Giglio, a four−ton, 65−foot tall statue carried by 120 men.
For this year’s festival, we invited six Williamsburg Italian−Americans reflect on the traditions of the feast in their own words:
Georgianna Tedone, Mozzarella maker, 597 Metropolitan Ave.
To me it’s a solemn community spirit that we look forward to every year because it brings us together as a unit. I can’t say I have a favorite memory. Each year it’s the same feeling, just the feeling of the origin of the feast – to bring back its greatness and fill the hearts of the community with joy. Whether people believe in God or whether they don’t, it’s supernatural. Money is metal and cold but the love that is here is everlasting and it continues to grow. That’s why we have another feast. Its the love you leave behind that grows. Love is everlasting.
Lucy Smith, volunteer
When I was in elementary school, the teachers used to allow us to go to the window to look at the Giglio. My whole family has been involved. My brother and my husband were Capo No. 1 [someone appointed to lead the feast]. The year my husband made it, he was the only Irish man in the Feast. When the guys hear the music, they come back. We lived within a block from each other growing up, but my grandchildren live in New Jersey now. The people here are very close. They spread out but they come back. They come from all over for the feast.
Philip Manna, Capo No. 1, 2008−2009
Probably my favorite memory is being number one and making the first lift off the sidewalk. I waited 53 years for that. You really can’t explain that. Your family and best friends are underneath you, carrying you under the Giglio. I go to Italy every year and I was proud to bring some of the traditional music back with me for the lift. The band learned the songs from Italy without telling me. My relatives from Italy, a lot of them came and made the lift with me, and a lot of the guys who were lifting when they were young came out of retirement to make that one lift.
Patty Grande, Capo No. 1, 2009−2010
I waited 40 years to be Capo No. 1. It’s been a dream come true, it’s very exciting. I’ve seen my uncles and cousins go before me. I’m the third Capo in our family to go number one. It’s a long family tradition. I started on the rope gang at 10 years old. We used to have a rope to hold the crowd back. You weren’t considered to be a lifter until 18 and you had to be picked by a lieutenant. I must have lifted 10 years when I got picked as a lieutenant. Another 15 years and then I became an apprentice for five years. Then I became Capo No. 3, Capo No. 2, and Capo No. 1. When you get to that, you feel you worked hard for it. You get the backing of your friends and the church.
Salvatore “Sarge” Mirando, Honorary Chairman
My favorite part of the feast used to be making t−shirts with my father. That is the guy you should be interviewing. My father, Buster, was everybody’s mentor in the feast. He used to make all the Giglio shirts. He was an artist. His father came from Nola. I’ve been in the feast since I was a little boy. I started as a lifter right through the ranks. The people who are still here taught me to get the word “hate” out of your language. They taught me how to love. Tradition here is great. Never be ashamed where you come from. Getting raised in this neighborhood is the best neighborhood in the world.
Connie Angiolillo, volunteer
©2009 Community News Group
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