Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi Friday, 06 August 2010 00:00
The Italian-American Citizens Club of Oyster Bay is carrying on the tradition of giving started by their grandparents. The new family-oriented St. Rocco Festival follows in the path set by the Italian-American Mutual Aid Society in 1910 that raised funds to help fellow immigrants who were here without the support services of their families.
Ralph Daniello said, “At that time only men came over. If something happened and they became sick, there was no one to care for them. Instead of getting welfare or begging, we had a fund to support those people. We didn’t look for charity.
“Now we have it as a tradition although now we don’t need it. But those immigrants worked so hard – the last two generations - so they deserve the respect for what they did. That includes bringing the statue from Paduli.
“It was a feast for both religious reasons and to raise funds. St. Rocco was our patron saint. The society has not held the festival since 1960 when the church [St. Dominic R.C.C.] took it over to run.
“Now the Italian-American Citizens Club is doing it,” Mr. Daniello said. “And we are getting nice weather,” he added.
The society had its own tent this year. Hanging inside is the beautiful banner made of silk rep, with a heavily embroidered medallion in the center. Inside the tent Ralph Daniello and George DiFede were in charge of the banner and greeting festival goers.
While Mr. Daniello was speaking, the Tony & Sons Festival Band were serenading the organizers of the festival standing outside their trailer. Festival organizers included Nick De Santis who was in charge of making all the signage; Joe Quartucio, Al Staab, Gary Ranaldo, Karen Testa, Frank Schiafano and Barry Ranaldo. The festival ran from July 28 through Aug. 1 – with beautiful weather throughout the event. This year St. Rocco’s meant rides, games, lots of live music, and, of course, all that great food: spaghetti and meatballs Paduli-style, homemade sausages, and grandma’s secret-recipe pasta sauce.
“It’s all going very well,” said Italian-American Citizens Club of Oyster Bay President Barry Ranaldo on Saturday after the procession with the statue that started at 4 p.m. at the Oyster Bay High School and proceeded to the fair grounds in Firemen’s Field. “It will even be better next time. It started out slow but people are coming and everyone is having a good time. It’s a family oriented fair.”
There was no gambling tent as when St. Dominic Church ran the festival. They sold beer and wine. Newton Entertainment provided the midway fun with rides and vendors selling a variety of ethnic and specialty foods.
Mr. Ranaldo said, “Maybe we’ll have fireworks next year.” He said this year they put a lot of effort into the entertainment. “There are three times the numbers of groups this year. That includes a lot of Italian singers.” Italian-American opera singer Joan Petrella the daughter of Anne and Dominic Petrella of Oyster Bay (she had performed in concert at the Doubleday Babcock Senior Center) was on the Town of Oyster Bay showmobile singing her heart out with a rendition of O Sole Mio.
This was an auspicious week for the IACC. On Tuesday, July 27 the town board voted on a resolution to allow the club to build additional bocce courts on town property –in the parking lot off Summit Street, behind the club. It will take five parking spots; and the area will be landscaped. That will make the area more appealing as the Oyster Bay Historical Society is finishing its new Angela P. Koenig Research and Collections Center. It is a three-story building with proper heating and air conditioning to keep valuable research material; and with an elevator to bring those materials up to the top floor for storage.
“Bocce is a growing sport in this country,” said Mr. Ranaldo. “It’s something that everybody can play. The Men’s League takes the play seriously. The Mixed Teams – there are 18 – have a lot of fun. It’s made up of husbands and wives. There are 325 members in the IACC. The Italian-American Women’s Club has 60 members.”
The name of the IACC is prevalent in stories about whom is helping whom in the area. “We help out in everything. We delivered the planters for the recent beautification program of the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce,” he said. The program was chaired by Dottie Simons of Dodds & Eder who plays bocce with the club.
“We helped with the food drive for Thanksgiving. We donated 80 turkeys. We gave their toy drive $1,000. We gave out about $4,000 in scholarships to high school graduating seniors. Now with this event we will have more money to donate,” he said.
Each night there was a 50/50 which benefited a different charity in the community including: the Brooke Jackman Foundation which promotes literacy; St. Dominic’s; the Amanda Stiles Foundation; (the Locust Valley coach) Michael Trama Memorial Fund; and Youth and Family Counseling Agency of Oyster Bay-East Norwich.
Another part of the story of the feast is the statue of St. Rocco, ordered by the Italian-American Benevolent Society from Paduli in 1931. “It’s the same statue they used when the St. Dominic parish held the feast starting in 1960,” Mr. Ranaldo said. Last year, 2009 there was no festival, after the church decided to discontinue holding the event.