18th Avenue Festival gears up for its 41st year

August 10, 2016 Jaime DeJesus
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It’s that time of the year again!

As summer winds down, a yearly tradition in Bensonhurst — the 18th Avenue Festival, aka the Festa di Santa Rosalia — enables Brooklynites and tourists alike to send the season off with a bang. Each year, thousands of people make their way to the strip for tasty dinner and desserts, such as the famous sausage and pepper sandwiches and zeppole, as well as rides, games and live music.

Now in its 41st year, the festivities seem to be more popular than ever. “We absolutely get a lot of interest. Every year, we get the phone calls beginning in the middle of July asking when’s the feast,” said Community Board 11 District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia. “The feast celebrates the Patron Saint Santa Rosalia from Palermo. And those that aren’t religious still have the opportunity to have a great time. It’s a terrific way to celebrate the end of summer.”

According to Elias-Pavia, interest from locals comes early and often. In addition, “People who have moved away still come back to be a part of the feast,” she said. “People around my age that grew up here keep coming back. It helps capture a part of their childhood.”

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Although attendees can expect to see the usual activities such as carnival games where you can win a goldfish or a stuffed animal, this year they will also see the return of the restored Santa Rosalia statue.

One of the gradual changes to the famous feast has been a growth in diversity. “It’s a large street festival and it celebrates the Italian American culture of the neighborhood,” Elias-Pavia said. “The past few years there have been changes to the community. It’s more diverse and has different ethnicities. When you go to the feast, you hear all different types of languages, and see different cultures. Everyone respects other peoples’ traditions and that’s very important and great.”

Opening day and weekends tend to be the busiest, according to Elias-Pavia.

Residents greatly anticipate the tradition. “Of course, everything changes, but it is still great,” said regular attendee Mary Torrato. “My family is still there and looks forward to it every year. My favorite aspect is that it keeps the tradition of the feast alive so my grandchildren can enjoy it the way I did and my kids did. The live bands and food are great.”

“I love the feast,” said Janine Giordano. “I lived at 72nd Street and 18th Avenue. I grew up with it and take my kids from Staten Island. It always feels like home again.”

Local elected officials, such as Borough President Eric Adams, Councilmembers Mark Treyger and Vincent Gentile, Assemblymember Peter Abbate, and State Senator Marty Golden, have been announced as honored guests.

The NYPD will also be honored.

Eleven live musical acts will perform. Kicking off the lineup is Good Noise on opening night, Thursday, August 18.

The 18th Avenue Festival will conclude on Sunday, August 28. It will span from 68th Street to Bay Ridge Parkway along 18th Avenue.

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