While walking through the quarter-of-a-mile stretch of food vendors at the 42nd annual Feast of Mother Cabrini in Brentwood Sunday, attendees indulged in the typical Italian-American carnival fare. There were calzones, pizza, and zeppoles, but the selection also included tacos, bratwurst, gyros and empanadas.
“We really get a diversification of ethnic groups,” said Giacomo “Jack” Abruzzo, a charter member of the Order of the Sons of Italy in America’s Giuseppe A. Nigro Lodge, which organizes the feast.
Abruzzo, 74, of Central Islip, said the feast was born out of a desire to bring an Italian-American feast to Suffolk County, but as the event has grown, it’s attracted families from different backgrounds. He said they’ve tried to cater to the changing clientele while also maintaining important traditions.
On Saturday, an outdoor Mass was held inside a tent at the feast, which takes place on the campus of Suffolk County Community College. Afterward, Abruzzo said four muscular men carried a statue of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, “Mother Cabrini,” around the carnival.
During the procession, attendees placed dollar bills on the statue. Others visited a makeshift shrine set up on the fairgrounds throughout the feast to pray and leave donations. All these funds will be donated to the actual Mother Cabrini Shrine located in Manhattan, which houses Cabrini’s remains.
The lodge will donate its percentage of the proceeds from the nine-day feast, which will conclude on Sept. 2, to charities. Last year, they gave away more than $50,000, and expect a similar figure this year. The beneficiaries include local churches, schools, scholarship funds and the Brentwood Fire Department, as well as nonprofits that deal with breast cancer research, autism, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
“Everyone works so well together and it affords us to give to these wonderful charities,” said Theresa Pernice, the current president of the lodge.
On Aug. 28 and Aug. 29, Newton Shows, which provides the rides, games and other attractions for the feast, also raised more than $1,000 for Island Harvest and collected six crates of nonperishable food by offering discounts on unlimited ride bracelets to anyone who made a donation.
By 5 p.m. Sunday, the eighth night of the feast, about 50,000 people had attended the feast so far, according to Mike Newton, who runs Newton Shows with his brother, John Newton, and his nephew, John Newton Jr. (Their father, Lewis Newton, the founder of the family-owned business, died last Tuesday at the age of 92.)
Mike Newton expected 8,000 attendees on Sunday, since there would be a firework display. The feast continues Monday. Gates open at 4 p.m.
“Newton Shows runs a really good feast,” said Heidi Kweit, 44, of Jericho, while exploring the petting zoo with her kids, Austin, 10, Farrah, 7, and Justin, 11.
On the other end of the carnival, Jennifer Blitzer, 38, of Dix Hills, was trying to keep up with her children, Addie, 6, and Alex, 8. The threesome had just stepped off a ride that mimicked a hang glider.
“This is the first year they’re both tall enough to do everything,” she said. “It’s fun, but they’re making me go on every nauseating ride.”