As Michael Zangari trailed the statue of St. Rocco during Sunday’s annual procession in Glen Cove, he thought of the miracle that is his 16-year-old daughter, who suffered seizures for three years as a small child.
“I prayed to him, and she got better,” said Zangari, 57, of Glen Cove, who has been walking in this procession alongside his daughter, Teresa, for about 10 years. “Ever since then she’s been healthy. She’s my baby.”
Sunday’s procession was a central event of the 42nd Feast of St. Rocco, a five-day festival hosted by the Church of St. Rocco in Glen Cove that event chairwoman Angie Colangelo said draws tens of thousands of guests annually and 200 volunteers a night.
While the festival boasts an array of rides and Italian food specialties, Sunday’s mass and procession, which featured dozens of participants, offered parishioners a chance to pray and give thanks to St. Rocco, patron saint of the sick who is credited with curing victims of the plague in the 14th century.
“It’s such a terrific event,” Glen Cove Mayor Reginald Spinello said. “It’s very contagious. Once someone’s here . . . all of a sudden their families start to come.”
Many people walked the roughly two-hour procession in the neighborhood between Cedar Swamp Road and Nassau Avenue in reflection, stopping at homes as the Rev. Daniel Stephen Nash blessed the old and sick, allowing them to ask St. Rocco to grant their intercessions. The statue, wearing a robe with red, white and green streamers, quickly became covered in offerings such as paper currency and gold jewelry.
Stephen La Rocca walked the more than one-mile procession route barefoot, keeping a nearly 30-year promise to St. Rocco that he had made after his grandmother suffered a fall that gashed her shin.
“I told [my grandmother], ‘Don’t worry, I promised St. Rocco that if he heals you, I’ll walk barefoot forever,” said La Rocca, 52, of Brooklyn. “Her leg was completely healed. The doctors were amazed.”
La Rocca often burst into song with a small group of four or five women, whose voices rose above the procession for every moment the statue was in motion.
“It comes from the bottom of our heart,“ said Giovanna Pinto, 52, who has sung in the procession for 10 years. The songs “are about joy to St. Rocco, and the miracle of everybody.”
The procession gave way to the festival’s “feast,” which included food ranging from eggplant Parmesan and lasagna to zeppoles. Among the food stands, a line of more than 30 people was forming for one of the festival’s main culinary draws: sausage and peppers.
Angie Trimble, 67, of Valley Stream, was one of the first people in line.
“We’re Italian,” she yelled, throwing her hands up as others in line smiled and nodded in agreement. “When you come to the feast, there’s no feast like the Italian feast. And you have to have sausage and peppers.”