VERPLANCK, N.Y. — A downpour did not spoil the final day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s 90th Annual Italian Feast, as members of the Verplanck-based charity group and cultural society took part in a religious tradition imported all the way from Calabria, Italy, homeland of many of the society’s founding members.
Following a Catholic Mass at St. Patrick’s Church on Sunday, the society’s statue of the Virgin Mary was carried out on a placard supported by four men, as congregants flooded out of the building, some into their cars and a brave few onto 11th Street to join the procession.
Firecrackers blasted off in the background during a break in the rain, and local brass band “The Dixie Dandies” played the Italian hymn “Viva Maria.” According to band leader Al Fennel of Shrub Oak, some of the band’s members have been playing the Our Lady procession for 25 years.
As Saint Mary was marched through the streets and torrents of rain fell from the sky, the parade made its way back to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society’s building for a grand Italian feast. Traditionally, the procession stops so that people can pin money on the statue as donations to the church, but this time, the marchers were on their own.
In a message from society president Gene Capicotto printed in the festival promotional book, Capicotto said the ceremony is “a touching and meaningful event, especially to the elderly who can’t make it to the feast.”
Money raised by the five-day Italian feast, which is complete with games, rides, traditional Italian food and entertainment, goes to benefit the 140-member organization’s charitable work in the community, which mainly helps families experiencing personal tragedies like illness, accidents, fires and job loss.
As the parade headed into the pounding rain, members of the society’s Ladies Auxiliary, which has more than 30 members, were on hand to hand out flowers to the crowd.
“We do a lot of community work, too,” said Auxiliary President Kelly Baisley of Cortlandt Manor, citing the group’s role in Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s first ever Armed Force Day Picnic held on May 19.