Feast of Saint Sebastian
Wednesday, Aug. 21-Sunday, Aug. 25
Kaveny Field, corner of Walnut,
Christopher and Grove streets
Wednesday-Friday, 5-10 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 3-10 p.m.
Vespers, Saturday, Aug. 24, 7:30 p.m.
Solemn High Mass, Sunday, Aug. 25,
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church,
94 Pine St.
Saturday, Aug. 24, 5 p.m.
Procession, Sunday, Aug. 25, 3:30 p.m.
Raffle drawing, Sunday, Aug. 25, 10 p.m.
Music every night, 6-10 p.m.
For information call 973-943-0733
By GWEN OREL
This year, you can prepare to ride the Ring of Fire by sitting in a cafe while sipping an iced coffee.
Move over, funnel cake.
It’s the first time in its 93 years that the Feast of Saint Sebastian will have a sit-down cafe.
Cafe Sebastiano will serve desserts, iced coffees and espressos. Table service with waiters to take orders will be offered. “It will be very posh,” said Danny Arminio, vice president of the Society of Saint Sebastian and chairman of the Feast.
“A feast is a perfect environment to have that ambiance, that outdoor Italian feeling of a cafe, where you can sit right next to the bandstand, and enjoy the music,” he added. The cafe will have some of the vibe that the now-closed Cafe Marzullo used to have, Arminio said, and it brings the festival into the Grove Street and Walnut Street atmosphere.
Of course, the festival will have the fair food available (don’t worry, funnel cake). But this idea for a sit-down cafe has been in the works since 2009, Arminio said. The cafe will be in the memory of John Ippolito, a dessert vendor who suggested the idea, but who has since passed away. There will be a memorial and proclamation posted outside of the eatery.
And, Arminio said, a Feast is different than a carnival. A Feast, he explained is in honor of someone, while a carnival may be a fundraiser for a secular cause, or just for fun. The main point of this feast is to honor Saint Sebastian. Arminio is the vice president of the Saint Sebastian Society, and the chairman of the Feast. From 1986 to 1991, the festival was on Glen Ridge Avenue, run by Arminio’s cousin Jerry Moschella.
The big religious events are the Vesper service Saturday night, Aug. 24, 7:30, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, a High Mass at the church on Sunday, Aug. 25, and the procession at 3:30 p.m. in which the statue of the saint is carried out of the church and carried through the neighborhood for about three hours. The statue arrives at the Feast at 6:30 p.m., the last stop before returning to the church. On his arrival, the saint is pulled onto the field, there is a fireworks salute and bands play. Many people will approach the saint with money offerings, or with a prayer, or to touch the relic, a bone of the saint, present on the statue in a reliquary.
The Feast Committee has 15 people, and the festival has been in the works since October 2018.
Saint Sebastian (256-288 A.D.) is known as the patron saint of soldiers. He was a Roman soldier who was executed for being a Christian. He’s invoked for strength, bravery and protection from disease, Arminio said.
The Society was founded in May 1926, by immigrants from Cerami, Sicily. The parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church catered to the immigrants’ spiritual and cultural needs, Arminio said. There was a big Feast in 1926, with a procession up and down Pine Street, he added.
The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a parish feast. In 2018, there was a festival to celebrate that Feast, but this year is was canceled. While there were plans to have the Mass and Procession on July 20, they were called off due to extreme heat.
Attractions of the five-day Feast include live music, a 50-50 raffle, and, this year, a Mozzarella cheese-making demo from Jersey Girl Cheese.
Arminio expects the Feast to attract 15,000 people or so over the course of the week. He’ll be there every day, sometimes with his 7-year-old son.
“The tradition keeps you young,” he said.