The feast in honor of Santa Rosalia has become a much-anticipated event in the Bensonhurst community. It’s a time to honor the patron saint of Palermo, Sicily with live entertainment, music, rides, games, food and drinks. Among the delicacies will be zeppole, rice balls and freshly-made brick oven pizza.
Sponsored by Figli di Santa Rosalia, a member of the Federation of Italian American Organizations, the feast will be celebrated this year from Thursday, Aug. 22 through Sunday, Sept. 1 from 67th Street to 75th Street on 18th Avenue, aka Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard, in Bensonhurst.
“The Santa Rosalia Feast, also known as the 18th Avenue Feast, has been a Bensonhurst tradition for over 44 years,” said District Manager of Community Board 11 Marnee Elias-Pavia. “While the neighborhood’s demographics have shifted, residents will have an opportunity to share in the culture, food and music of our Italian-American community.”
The Feast of Santa Rosalia has been held continuously in Sicily since 1624 and is the largest Italian-American feast in Brooklyn.
This year’s grand marshal is City Councilmember Justin Brannan, who said he was honored to have been given the title.
“I grew up going to the 18th Avenue Feast as a kid so this is a real honor for me,” Brannan told this paper. “It’s a Brooklyn tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation, started by Sicilian immigrants who wanted an American version of the famous Festino di Santa Rosalia that takes place in Palermo every year.”
Brannan said that it was a way to pay homage to his cultural heritage. “As an Italian-American from Brooklyn whose ancestors came from Naples, this festival always makes me proud of both my Italian and Brooklyn heritage,” he told this paper. “And it reminds me of how immigrants have always made Brooklyn the beautiful and diverse place that it is today. I’m truly thrilled to be the grand marshal this year.”
Last year’s Grand Marshal Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the New York Building Congress, has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make the event a success.
“The feast is an important tradition for not just Bensonhurst but all of Brooklyn. It’s a part of our culture, a part of the Italian community,” Scissura told this paper.
“It’s part of the immigrant story, which is about a patron saint that was important for people from Sicily, that, by the way, once made up one of the largest groups anywhere in Brooklyn.
“The nice thing is now with the changed community and many different ethnic groups, it’s a place for people to come together for 10 days, listen to music, eat food, bring their kids out and just enjoy walking around the community,” he added. “I think that’s the beauty of it today.”
Scissura was also delighted to have Brannan as this year’s grand marshal. “We’re very, very excited that Justin is the grand marshal. They told me I was a tough act to follow as grand marshal, so I said then Justin is the only one,” continued Scissura.
“We’re very happy about it and I think he will be great. He’s been a staunch community advocate and he supported the feast even before he was an elected official. I think he will be making his Italian grandparents proud. Justin is as Italian as they come,” he added.
The feast will conclude on Sunday, Sept. 1 with a religious procession at 3 p.m. beginning at 18th Avenue and 72nd Street and ending at St. Dominic Church at 20th Avenue and Bay Ridge Parkway where there will be a full mass at 4 p.m.