A tall ferris wheel shines during the Feast and Carnival of Saint Sebastian. COURTESY SAINT SEBASTIAN SOCIETY.

The Feast and Carnival of Saint Sebastian
Wednesday, Aug. 23-Sunday, Aug. 27
Wednesday-Friday, 5-10 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 3-10 p.m.

Kaveny Field and Christopher Street area
Vespers service: Aug. 26, 7 p.m.
Solemn high Mass: Aug. 27, 11:15 a.m.
Procession: Sunday, Aug. 27, 3:30 p.m.
Beginning at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 94 Pine St.

Entertainment, 6-10 p.m.:
Wednesday: Italian singer and DJ Jerry Caputo
Thursday: “Andre Boccelli style songstress
Stella Crispo”
Friday: The Rockin Soul Band
Saturday: “Local sensation Ray Cetrell”
Sunday: “The Voice, Tommy Scala”

973-943-0733
Societysaintsebastian.com

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

The 91st annual St. Sebastian Feast and Carnival has a lot in common with other summer carnivals around the country:

Roller coasters., including the tall “ring of fire,” which can be seen throughout the neighborhood.

Funnel cakes and cotton candy.

A wine and beer garden.

But it’s called a feast as well as a carnival because it honors a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, explained Danny Arminio, president of the Feast Committee.

Arminio is also vice president of the Saint Sebastian Society of Montclair, which is affiliated with Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 94 Pine St. Joseph DiBella is the society’s president.

The Feast and Carnival begin on Wednesday, Aug. 23, and will take up most of Kaveny Field for five days. Evening entertainers will serenade the crowd every night.

A vespers service will be celebrated on Saturday, Aug. 26, at Mount Carmel, and on Sunday, Aug. 27, the “big day” for the Feast, a solemn high Mass will be celebrated at the church, where the statue of the saint is kept. At 3:30 p.m. Sunday, the statue will go on procession through the streets of the Fourth Ward, accompanied by bands. The procession ends at Kaveny Field.

“It’s a way of gathering people for a great social event, to honor a great person,” Arminio said.

St. Sebastian, Arminio explained, was “the patron saint of soldiers, athletes and archers. He was a Roman soldier who was secretly a Christian. He was the emperor’s personal bodyguard, then he was executed.”

Many works of art depict the saint, who lived in the third century, shot full of arrows. Emperor Diocletian ordered him bound to a stake and shot by arrows when he learned of his Christianity.

Arminio said, “An interesting thing is that he didn’t die by the arrows. He survived that, returned and confronted the emperor again. He was beaten to death.”

The statue, according to the Society’s website, societysaintsebastian.com, was built in 1936, 10 years after the society was founded in Montclair in 1926 by Italian immigrants from Cerami, Sicily, who brought with them the tradition of honoring the saint with a feast.

For Arminio, that history runs deep: in 2002, he became president of the feast, after the tenure of his cousin Jerry Moschella, who ran it for more than 30 years.

There have been years when the feast wasn’t a big carnival, but Arminio grew up hearing about the big extravaganza it had been in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, and when he took over, he brought it back as a big event.

The feast itself wasn’t something you heard about, he said with a laugh. It just was.

Arminio estimates the feast will attract from 12,000 to 15,000 people over the course of the five days.

This year, the Feast and Carnival are particularly joyous because after the uncertainty about whether Our Lady of Mount Carmel would remain open, it now appears that it will, Arminio said.

The bells of the church have been completely restored too, through private donations.

“They were just finished this week.

“There will be full clanking.”