Feast of St. Rocco in Glen Cove draws thousands
Sweet sausage sizzled atop the grill -- 45 pounds of it -- next to a smoking mound of sliced peppers.
The man in charge of all that spicy goodness, Mark "Sausage King" Ermmarino, is no stranger to the logistics of feeding the masses.
"I've been around this all my life," he said Saturday as he dished up sausage-and-pepper sandwiches. Ermmarino, 50, has been working the Feast of St. Rocco, Glen Cove's weeklong festival, since he was a teenager. Now his 20-year-old son, Mark, has followed suit.
"Over the years, you try to get the younger people involved," Ermmarino said.
Thousands flocked to the streets outside the Church of St. Rocco Saturday for the fundraising public feast, which supports the church and features children's amusements, carnival games and a host of Italian delicacies.
Some visitors waxed nostalgic about tradition, while others, young children in tow, came seeking reminders.
Kevin Franzen, 59, of Glen Cove, who was serving beer at a stand, marveled at the growth of the festival since he began working it 25 years ago. The crowds are bigger, the rides better, he said.
"It was a lot smaller then. We built on as we became more popular," he said.
Event chairman Reggie Spinello said he expects the feast, which began Tuesday and ends Sunday night, to draw up to 100,000 people.
Stands promised everything from cannoli and zeppole to mozzarella steak sandwiches on garlic bread. Not far away, rides such as Pharaoh's Fury, a towering passenger ship that swung pendulously, and a Ferris wheel, loomed large.
This year, there was a new attraction: a petting and feeding zoo.
As his 2-year-old son enjoyed the animals, Peter Del Prete, 33, of West Islip, said he came seeking "Italian-American camaraderie."
"Life is too busy to have Sunday dinner at the grandparents," he said.
For Richard Longo, of Ridge, the sights brought back vivid memories.
Longo, 79, who attended St. Rocco's in Brooklyn as a child, said the wine and sliced peaches reminded him of his mother's. "I've never seen it anywhere else," he said.