18th Avenue Festival kicks off

August 22, 2013 Helen Klein
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Get ready to stuff your face with zeppole and sausages.

The 18th Avenue Festival, aka the Festa di Santa Rosalia, is returning along the strip between 68th Street and Bay Ridge Parkway, from Thursday, August 22 through Sunday, September 1, despite earlier rumors that the long-running event had been cancelled, as it was two years ago.

Bill Guarinello, the chairperson of Community Board 11, noted that the event, “Goes back to the heritage that Bensonhurst was built on. We certainly support that. However, we have to wait and see how each year goes. I hope they run a good festival that shows Italian culture in a positive way. As long as the organizers continue to do it well, we don’t have any difficulty with it.”

Assemblymember Peter Abbate filled this paper in with some history of the feast. He noted that Santa Rosalia was the patron saint of Palermo, Sicily and since Bensonhurst had a large Sicilian population a few decades ago, they had named the festival after her.

“The original feast was held at Santa Rosalia Church at 14th Avenue and 63rd Street,” Abbate said. “About 30 years ago, they moved it to 18th Avenue. It keeps that tradition of Italian-Americans in the neighborhood. It’s time to celebrate the patron saint.”

Abbate noted that a couple of years ago, one of the original founders of the feast had died, resulting in some paperwork issues that eventually led to the cancellation of the festival in 2011.

“So for the past couple of years it’s been in transition,” he explained. “This year, the paperwork is filed and permits have been sent out. The rides are delivered, stands are put up and [tonight] we will start the celebration.”

Abbate is no stranger to the Festa di Santa Rosalia. As a young teen, he worked at the feast, helping out with the games. As an altar boy, he marched in the traditional procession, carrying the statue of Santa Rosalia, which will take place this year on Sunday, September 1 at 2 p.m.

Participants will start the solemn procession at 18th Avenue and 72nd Street and will walk to the Church of Santa Rosalia. A celebration will take place at 14th Avenue and 63rd Street at 4 p.m.

“What’s nice about it is that the neighborhood changed and this gives an opportunity for new people coming into the neighborhood to experience the traditions of original Italian-American [immigrants],” Abbate said. “You will see all nationalities coming to this feast. It’s not much different from the Feast of San Gennaro [in Lower Manhattan], only we are bigger.”

Streets will be closed to vehicular traffic between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. during each day of the festival.

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