Surprise, surprise, the local color has not been drained from Williamsburg. In fact, the multi week Giglio feast shows just how strong the neighborhood’s cultural and religious roots are. The feast, celebrating the patron saint Palonius of the Italian city Nola, goes back over a hundred years, and features a series of processions, religious ceremonies, and the lifting of a 2-ton, 50-foot-tall shrine by feast participants. With the mixture of religious events and an accompanying carnival, the festival is quite a logistical undertaking.
Attendee Joanne Manna’s husband Phil earned the top spot as the Capo for two years “My husband worked 53 years for the church as a volunteer, and he worked up the ranks as a lifter, an organizer. It’s not something you’re nominated for.” Manna was quick to point out the oft repeated mantra regarding the Giglio’s (ghee-lee-O) importance, saying “This community has three holidays: Easter, Christmas, and Giglio Sunday.”
On its last night, the Giglio was a busy if somewhat scrunched carnival scene, taking the shape of a cross on Havemeyer between North 6th and North 9th and west from Union on North 8th. The street lamps were decorated with large tinsel flowers and a wind farm of flags (8/10 Italian, 1/10 Puerto Rican, 1/10 American) and the stick streets were filled with rickety circus rides, booths for plastic novelties, impossible to win carnie games, pina coladas, zeppolis, and fried seafood.
Families with strollers mixed with prowling teens, bored cops and the occasional representative of the area’s many over-styled and underemployed. Local Mike Locascio has been attending the feast for some 50 years, and has been witness to the neighborhood’s various demographic shifts, including the most recent wave. “You wanna call em yuppies, I could say that.”
For Locascio, the festival has been, and continues to be, the celebration of a diverse community. “When I grew up we had a couple blacks, a couple Spanish kids, and it didn’t matter what color you were, because this is your feast.”