The Feast of St. Rocco is back, bringing thousands of meatballs, dozens of carnival rides and games, and a focus on fun to Glen Cove.
July 28 is the kickoff of the five-day fair dubbed by fans as "The best feast in the East." The moment on opening night when everything falls into place — the tents are up, the Italian grandmothers have finished preparing the meatballs, the rides are soaring into the air outside the stone Church of St. Rocco — is magical, says feast chairperson Angie Colangelo.
"You get to see the puzzle you put down on paper in real life," Colangelo says. "It’s magical and spectacular."
That goes double this year, she says, because the feast, which has been happening for more than 40 years, was canceled last July due to the pandemic. It will be roaring back, says St. Rocco pastor Daniel Nash (who, if you twist his arm, will confess that his favorite feast food is the eggplant rollatini. "I’ll get in trouble if I say I love one more than the others," he laments).
ST. ROCCO FITTING
The biggest change to the event this year is that it will be spread out more to allow for more social distancing, even outdoors. "There’ll be a lot of food, a lot of fun, and a lot of room," Nash promises. "Everyone should be safe and happy and have a good time."
It’s fitting in this era of coronavirus that the feast honors St. Rocco, who is the patron saint of the sick and cared for people during the Bubonic Plague. "He himself, according to the history, contracted the plague and was seriously disfigured by it," Nash says. When he returned home, his community didn’t recognize him and identified him by a birthmark, he says.
As the culmination of the feast of St. Rocco on Sunday, a statue of the saint is led in a procession through the Glen Cove community, and devotees pray for his protection and can attach dollar bills or jewelry to the statue if they wish.
But starting on Wednesday night, it’s all fun and games and eating. The church’s 25 volunteer nonnas — that’s Italian for grandmother — have previously prepared 6,000 meatballs, 148 trays of eggplant Parmesan, 50 trays of eggplant rollatini, 50 trays of lasagna, 1,000 rice balls, tripe and, of course, the nonna’s Sunday special — braciole rolled stuffed beef. "Growing up, the Italian Sunday meal was pasta, along with a meatball, sausage and braciole," Colangelo says. All the sauces are made fresh the week of the feast, as are items such sausage and peppers cooked to order on outdoor grills.
Newton Shows will be bringing back carnival rides, including two family favorites, The Super Shot and Pharoah’s Fury, says owner Mike Newton.
The former features 12 riders sitting in a circle and drawn up 90 feet in the air. Then they’re suddenly dropped in a free fall and come to a full stop. There’s no spinning, so "it’ a wonderful ride for people who get dizzy," Newton says. The latter is a large boat with Egyptian pharaoh heads on each end. "It swings back and forth. Your whole family can go on together, you sit in rows. It’s a real crowd pleaser," Newton says.
As for midway games, there’ll be plenty of chances to win prizes at whack-a-mole, water races and basketball shooting, Newton says. "The hot item this year is the squishmallow, squishy toys are just the biggest thing," Newton says.
The entire event is a chance for the community to have a good time, but it’s also an important fundraiser for the church, Nash says. "It’s a fundamental part of our budget," he says.
It’s been that way for — Nash is stumped, as is festival chair Colangelo. Because they missed last year, should this by the 46th year? Or the 45th annual? "I’m not sure," Colangelo says. "I have to look into that."
The Feast of St. Rocco
WHEN | WHERE July 28 to Aug. 1, check website for each day’s hours; 18 Third St., Glen Cove
COST Admission is free; food and rides are a la carte; pay-one-price ride bracelet is $35 at the door, individual ride tickets can be purchased on site; discounted bracelets in advance online
INFO 516-676-2482; newtonshows.com
Can’t make it to St. Rocco’s? Here are some other family carnivals coming up this summer on Long Island:
Aug. 5 to 8: Summer Carnival at Christopher Morley Park, 500 Searingtown Rd., Roslyn
Aug. 11 to 14: Family Festival at Holy Family Church, 17 Fordham Ave., Hicksville
Aug. 20 to 22: Greek Festival at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption, 430 Sheep Pasture Rd, Port Jefferson
Sept. 3 to 6: Annual Carnival at the Huntington YMCA, 60 Main St., Huntington
For more information, call 631-499-6824 or visit newtonshows.com