Valley Views: Half a Century of Tradition | Community columns

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Steeped in a deep Catholic faith and longstanding Italian traditions, the Feast Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the West Side of Carbondale is gearing up for its 50th anniversary celebration July 14-16.

The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel celebrates on July 16 the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, patroness of the parish. Families would gather at the party ground, which was originally located on Green Street. Several years later, the celebration began to take place at its current location on Farview Street. The families of the parish were proud — and continue to do so — to organize and animate the various stands of the celebration. This year will mark half a century for the party at the Farview Street location.

Each year, family and friends from all over make special plans to return home to the wonderful town of Carbondale to celebrate during this three-day event. In the past, a variety of live entertainment entertained customers and guests. Local artists such as Lynette’s Twirlerettes, Faith Ann Liuzzo School for the Performing Arts and Red Dragon Karate have all wowed Feast patrons with performances.

This year, guests will be entertained by music from local favorite The Wannbees on July 14th. Lynette’s Twirlerettes will kick off the festivities on July 15, followed by another local fan favourite, Blue London. Jim Cerminaro will close the Feast celebration on July 16, singing many Italian favorites to sing along to and reminisce about the good old days.

Assistance from the parish Altar and Rosary Society prepares many of the delicious Italian dishes and desserts featured at the Feast. Tripe, eggplant parmigiana, sausages and peppers, porketta, soppressata sandwiches and pizza will be on the menu. Other food items on offer include funnel cakes, potato pancakes, fried Oreos, Italian ice cream, cotton candy, hand-dipped candy apples, chicken tenderloins, pierogies , cheesesteaks, hamburgers and hot dogs. Homemade pies and cakes—and of course, we can’t forget cannoli and fried dough—complete this culinary excursion. As in the past, the Altar and the Rosary will sponsor a huge fireworks display on July 15 at 9:30 p.m.

Parish families and community members have also been instrumental in donating themed baskets which are raffled off on the last evening of the feast. This year, the themed baskets will also include many large items: adult and children’s bicycles, televisions and portable DVD players. Any parishioner or member of the community who would like to donate a basket or large item can contact the parish presbytery at 570-282-2991. Last year, the festival committee introduced a silver raffle ticket. Prizes totaling over $8,000 are awarded and only 500 tickets are sold.

The highlight of the festival is the procession of Our Lady through the streets of Carbondale’s West Side. After the 10 a.m. mass, the men of the parish pull the statue of Our Lady and two servants through the streets. This tradition brings families to their sidewalk to celebrate our faith. The procession also visits Carbondale’s two retirement homes, allowing those residents to get a sense of the Feast. Prayers are said and a shoulder blade of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is presented to residents.

Along the route of the procession, the women of the parish pray the rosary and bring flowers to the elderly or sick members of the parish. Many families along the procession route welcome the group with a feast of food and drink to refresh the group as they continue their journey. During the last stage of the procession, the women of the parish take over and bring the statue back to the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel for a final prayer of blessing. During this year’s procession, the original surviving gentlemen who pulled the statue through the streets for many years will be honored as our Lady of Mount Carmel Honor Guard.

The Festival is synonymous with family and tradition passed down from generation to generation. The West Side of Carbondale and in particular Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish are proud of their heritage and faith. The three evenings of the Feast and the culminating Procession allow not only the parishioners but also the faithful of all religions to bear witness to our traditions and our devotion and to be part of our community. The Festival Committee would like to thank all the families, friends and parishioners who contributed in any way to make this year’s event possible. We invite everyone to join us and enjoy all that the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel has to offer.

Samantha Masco, a teacher in the Carbondale Area School District, is a Life Member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and a member of her Altar and Rosary Society for over 10 years. In 2002, Samantha was an attendant at Notre-Dame during the annual holiday procession. During the Fête, she volunteers at the themed basket stand.


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