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Hundreds celebrate Feast of Giglio on LI

Shopkeepers along a stretch of Hempstead Turnpike in

Shopkeepers along a stretch of Hempstead Turnpike in Franklin Square pin money on a statue of San Paolino that is being carried by members of the Sons of San Paolino in a procession that followed the construction of a 78-foot tall structure called a Giglio. (June 23, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Audrey. C. Tiernan

It's a 1,603-year-old story, dating to 409 A.D., when tradition has that San Paolino di Nola traded his freedom for the release of a widow's only son from Hun captivity. So impressed were the Huns by San Paolino that they offered to free him, but he accepted only when the Huns agreed to release the other captured men from Nola.

And Saturday at St. Catherine of Sienna Church in Franklin Square, some 115 men raised a 6,000-pound, 70-foot-tall memorial to San Paolino on their shoulders and marched in the streets of the hamlet until dark.

Hundreds made a pilgrimage to Franklin Square for yesterday's march, greeted by food, games, rides and tradition for the Feast of the Giglio -- named for the masculine Italian word for "lilies," the kind once used to fete San Paolino.

Saturday, the 115 or so men hoisted the statue to cheers from the crowd. Many of the men had red and white carnations in their flat caps. The men danced in the streets. A singer and band stood atop the platform near the statue and serenaded the crowd with Italian songs.

Over the years, Giglio feasts have taken place around the metro area.

"I carried in Astoria, I carried in the Bronx, I carried in East Harlem, I carried in Brooklyn -- and I carry in Long Island," said longtime lifter Charlie McEntee, 64, of Selden, who says he's been carrying since he was 21.

Nearby, jewelry maker Amy Byrne, 38, of Franklin Square, displayed homemade pieces for sale, with her boys Pat, 11, Matt, 9, and Ryan, 7, nearby.

The family has been coming to the festival for years.

"If she vends, then we can just come here more," Matt said.

For many, the festival is a source of pride in their Italian ancestry.

Not for all.

"I'm Irish," McEntee said, lathering sunscreen on his nose before lighting a small cigar. "But the rest of the family is mostly Italian."

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