Avoiding Crisis

The Feast (part 1)

with 44 comments

A miracle:  Having sold his goods in a neighboring town, the man was traveling back to his village.  It was dark and he was riding a cart pulled by a mule.  As the story has been told, the man was attacked by several robbers and beaten up.  Lying there badly hurt he prayed to the Virgin Mary for help.  An apparition of the Blessed Mother appeared in the sky.  The robbers fled, leaving the man to die.  He was carried to the safety of his home by his mule.  He lived to tell of this miracle. The year was 1903 and the place, Altamura, Italy.   

Would you think I was weird if I told you that every year my family gathers in a small concrete park in North Bergen, NJ to carry around a life-size statue of the Virgin Mary?   And how before that, she was carried by members of my family in a park in Brooklyn?  That our entire family — men, women and children, regardless of height and/or strength — participate?  That we bear the weight of the statue on our shoulders parading her around to the tunes of Italian folk music as played by a brass band, whose median age, I must tell you, is like 70 years old?  That for 15 meters we, as does each family that takes part in this festa, pay our respects to our ancestors and to their homeland, remembering those who are no longer with us and asking protection from the Virgin Mary for the year ahead?  I would probably find it a bit odd if I were you.  But for me, it’s perfectly normal, and, until I left the United States, it was how I spent every single Labor Day weekend – aside from the year I was born and the year my cousin got married. 

My family’s history is not unlike many other immigrant stories from the early 20th century.  My great grandfather, Giambatista Ferrandino, would journey to America from his small town of Altamura, in search of a better life.  He would settle in Brooklyn, NY among others from his town.  They spoke barese.  They made a living by delivering ice. 

In 1925, seven men, all from Altamura, formed an organization, a society, with the purpose of preserving their devotion to their Madonna, Maria SS. del Buoncammino, the protector of safe passage, and carrying on cultural traditions.  The organization would also serve as a benefit society, providing assistance to members who were in greatest need.  First order of business for the society was to organize a festa, or “feast”, to celebrate the miracle, as they had always done back home in Italy. 

Today, my father is a member of this society, as his father was. We carry on the traditions of our family. 

When I was a young girl, I would walk with my great grandmother Anunziatta (Nancy) the 100 yards from our family’s designated area in the park to the chapel where they kept the statue of the Virgin Mary.  We’d enter the chapel and she’d point out the painting that hung on the wall and the framed original charter of the Society.  Then, she’d tell me the story about the man and the robbers and she’d point out the name of my great grandfather, her husband.  Then she’d say something, probably in the barese dialect ’cause I never understood it, kneel in front of the Madonna and make the sign of the cross.  Then we’d walk the 100 yards back to the family and wait for the procession to begin.  

One year I had learned how to dance the Tarantella for a ballet recital and I remember how it brought her such great joy to watch me as I went through the steps of the traditional southern Italian folk dance. 

I never knew my grandfather.  He died several years before I was born.  I’m named after him.  My grandmother died when I was 6 years old.   So, aside from the photos I’ve seen and the stories I’ve been told, I don’t have many memories of her.  My father doesn’t believe in visiting cemeteries.  The feast was always my connection to them, my one opportunity during the year to be close to them to feel their presence and to feel like they were watching us.  I miss that part of it all.

to be continued….

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Written by nicolemarie

September 3, 2007 at 12:26 am

Posted in biographical, faith, family

44 Responses

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  1. Really good job, takes a very difficult thing to explain and makes it somewhat understandable to the general public. Love, Dad

    JJF

    September 3, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    • This was wonderful reading. I spent my entire childhood at the Buoncammino Feast for the Labor Day weekend. What a joy. The kids went to sleep in the cars, the men played cards all night and the women sat up or dozed at the tables while they dreamt of getting ready for the next day’s eating frenzy, thin sausage, (cervilata) amd peppers, home made pizza’s, frattata, pasta, BBQ. My children went also but they were too young to remember all of the details. The fireworks at the end were a big fascination My Uncle Joe Castellano, was the man in the brown suit at the foot of the saint who screamed, “gop e shpale”, which meant “on the shoulders” (phonetically spelled). I miss him and the others terribly. God bless you, wherever you are, Uncle, Joe, Aunt Mary, Madaline, Zia Annina and Eva too.

      AnnMarie Breda

      February 11, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      • I remember your Uncle and your family. You had a table adjacent to the chapel. Why noy return?

        john M

        February 12, 2013 at 12:14 pm

  2. I really enjoyed reading that – a very vivid piece of writing about something I’d never know otherwise.

    Sometimes I read things like this and realise how many interesting and colourful stories and traditions are all around use, but often we’re blind to them.

    prospectus

    September 3, 2007 at 2:08 pm

  3. I remember you always going to this. Don’t think I ever really knew all the details about it. Certainly interesting.

    Michelle C.

    September 4, 2007 at 9:21 pm

  4. ……..we live in a world where people look for little signs and things for hope. Your story was inspiring because I lived the same memories as you. I remember all the sights, smells, aromas of the feast…the taste of freshly made lemon ice and spumoni. I remember the band playing while the fireworks were being shot off. My grandmother and your greatgrandmother were friends. I remember your greatgrandmother. Your grandfather and my uncle were good friends, and I believe passed away the same year. I just happened to go online yesterday because I was somewhat depressed thinking about the feast, and when I was a child….thank you for sharing all those great memories…dont ever let them fade…I loved your closing line…we do this because we are altamurani…bravo…

    rich d

    September 5, 2007 at 11:58 am

  5. Omg. I go to the same thing every year myself.When i tell people they think it is strange.It is amazing to actually see other people do participate even though other people do in the small park.I am 14 and i cant imagine not going to the feast its my favorite tradition.

    Ashley

    October 1, 2007 at 8:07 pm

  6. Hi There,
    My Dad has been speaking of this feast for many years and yesterday, my sister and I found your website and it brought tears to my Dad’s eyes. He is 88 years old and was born in Altamura. He came to America as a child and has visited his town several times over the years .
    I live only about 6 miles from the park in North Bergen. It is too bad for us that we missed the feast by 2 weeks but we hope to be there next year, God willing. Does anything else happen in the Park at other times related to our culture?
    Meanwhile I am looking forward to finding more information regarding Altamura. Thanks so much.
    Peace and Blessings,
    Barbara

    Barbara Cappelli

    September 15, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    • The Feast and its significance goes beyond tradition and memories. It is a thread that links us to those GIANTS who braved the storm, faced a puzzling prejudice and refused the easy government dole to make their and our lives better. Today, we the alleged educated and proud decendents stand on the shoulders of these Altamurani. We are able to see ahead becuase of them.
      The Feast will always survive. If you do not come, even for a momnet, you do a disservice to them and to yourselves.

      It should be noted that the founders never wanted a “street feast”. Too public. They did not want to be understood by outsiders nor did they care. Personally, I still feel the same way. The organization helps each other socially, morally, spiritually and when necessary, financially. It is nice to try to explain to “outsiders” why we do what we do but it is enough to just do it

      john m

      July 1, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    • Barbara
      What is your Dads last name?

      john m

      July 1, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    • ciao barbara sono nicola loizzo e sono un consigliere comunale di altamura. sono venuto alla festa di new york nel settembre 2009. se vuoi informazioni sui tuoi parenti ad altamura basta mandarmi i dati di tuo padre e ti facciosapere. resto a disposizione

      nicola fedele loizzo

      May 1, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      • my mother was from Bari. Her maiden name was Loizzo. her father was Guiseppe. Is Loizzo a commom name of Barese people

        James Branco

        September 3, 2011 at 5:41 pm

  7. Hi. My parents were born in altamura and imigrated to Montreal, Canada in 1957 and soon after I was born.
    My name is Pascal and I enjoy discussing with my Dad his good old days. My Dad’s last name is Salvatore and my mother’s maiden name is Calia. Wonder if your parents know then from when they were children ? My e-mail : pascal_salvatore@hotmail.com

    Pascal

    January 29, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    • ciao pascal sono nicola loizzo e sono un consigliere comunale di altamura. sono venuto alla festa di new york nel settembre 2009. se vuoi informazioni sui tuoi parenti ad altamura basta mandarmi i dati di tuo padre e ti facciosapere. resto a disposizione

      nicola fedele loizzo

      May 1, 2011 at 8:43 pm

  8. My grandfather was also from Altamura, Italy. Franciso D’Ambrosio moved to the US in 1927 and also had an ice and coal delivery company in the lower east side of New York City. He was a proud member of “the society” as is my father, myself, my son and my cousin. Although I live in Las Vegas now I never miss the annual event. I already have my round trip tickets purchased for myself and my family. If you come by our table you can have a glass of red wine with us or maybe some espresso. Our table is by space 10. Great story, Viva La Festa!!!

    Paul P. D’Ambrosio

    Paul P. D'Ambrosio

    August 13, 2009 at 3:16 am

  9. I loved reading that. I go there every year. Was Miss Altamura back in 2001 🙂 Can’t wait for Sept. 6th-7th 2009!

    Deirdre Maino

    August 26, 2009 at 1:10 pm

  10. Nice story! I am looking forward to enjoying this year’s Feast coming up. I am headed there this weekend with some good friends of mine Lisa Comodo LoDico and Gaetano LoDico.

    Tanti auguri!

    PD
    http://www.olmcfeast.com that’s our Feast in Brooklyn.

    patrick

    September 3, 2009 at 2:01 pm

  11. My family has been going to this feast for years. I always knew if it didn’t rain on memorail day weekend we were going to the feast. My father pass away 4 years ago and everytime we visit the feast I always feel his presence there. Thank you for shgaring your story.

    Joe

    May 21, 2010 at 3:30 pm

  12. My family is from Altamura also. Their names are Tedesco and Chiavelli. My grandfather was a member years. We havent been to the feast in years but would love to continue the tradition of going Labor Day weekend again. Any suggestions on who we can talk to to possibly become members again. Please send e-mail. Thanks

    Lisa Chiavelli

    September 2, 2010 at 12:26 am

    • HI LISA , YOU CAN GET IN TOUCH WITH JOHN MUSTARO@NYPA.GOV HE IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE SOCIETY AND WILL GLADLY HELP YOU TO REJOIN THIS SOCIETY. HOPE TO SEE YOU AT THE FEAST ONE DAY REGARDS ROE ARCURIA

      Roe Arcuria

      September 2, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    • I am a member of the Buoncammino Society and I will be glad to connect you with my brother members if you would like to join the organization. Call Jack Ninivaggi at 845-709-1217

      Jack Ninivaggi

      September 14, 2010 at 1:07 am

  13. Hi, my family were members of the Bouncammino Society, beginning with my grandmother’s relatives when they came from Bari. They settled in Hoboken, NJ and Hamden, Connecticut. I have pictures of my grandparents when they used to have the Feast in New York. The memories of the “barrack” in North Bergen, all the barbeques smoking up the park, sleeping in a tent, the food and family are priceless. I remember going from market to market all over Hoboken shopping and my cousin Tessie would have someone go to Brooklyn to get the livers, sweet breads and the sausage with the cheese. Although we don’t go since my cousin Tessie passed, we have a Labor Day picnic every year and bring out the photos and videos of our wonderful times.

    Sandy Simone-D'Agostino

    September 20, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    • Hi…Why don’t all of you come back to the wonderful feast that we have every year.Since you have a Labor Day picnic every year why don’t you have it at the park. The last time I was there was when I was a kid in 1965 when my mother passed away. But I found my way back to this wonderful event and wouln’t miss it ever again . Your husband or any male member of your family can rejoin the Society for 8 dollars a month.
      Good Luck and I hope to see you there
      Philip Arcuria

      Philip

      September 23, 2010 at 11:24 pm

  14. My Grandfathere was an iceman from Bari. His lastname was Loizzo. Is that a common Barese name? His first name was Guiseppe

    James Branco

    September 3, 2011 at 5:44 pm

  15. we attended the feast with another family with barese heritage; their name was martimucci and their grand father too was an iceman in bari. we have not attended the feast in years but have many memories of going to setup “our table” in a specific area with my grandfather

    James Branco

    September 3, 2011 at 5:52 pm

  16. james: Loizzo is a typical Altamurani name. Nicola Loizzo is a councilman from the City of Altamura and would be glad to located your families records. See his letter (in Italian) above. He needs birthdates, etc

    Martimucci family still participate in the Society and Feast. You may get in touch with me if you want to “come back”
    718 837 0876

    John M

    December 21, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    • Dear Sir Mustaro,
      I’m from Altamura and I’m writing a book about Buoncammino feast here and in New York. I’d like to interviw you and the girl who wrote down this wonderful post. Could you give me your e-mail address? And, if you have it, the girl’s e-mail address? I tried to reach her through the one written on the homepage but the e-mail came back…

      Antonietta Tricarico

      Antonietta

      July 17, 2013 at 7:45 am

  17. I was lost in a time warp…and now at the age of 74 i recolect a similar occurance…when i was a small boy growing up in the village of
    woodside ” in the boro of queens n.y. My Father FRANCHESCO FERRARESE and my god father and an uncle and a whole lot of pasini would have a italian ice mans picnic called ” quazan ” or at least thats what it sounded like to a young boys ears …MY Mother FELICA (nee ) RAGUSEO raised in the city of bari
    And my father franchesco came from the town of ravina on the out skirts of bari both in the province of puglia…I remember the music and the smells at that picnic somewhere in the eastern end of queens or nassau county …in the 1940`s it was a long drive in an ice truck with only roads …no expressway or highways … I remember the names like …OTTOMANELLI , SAVINO , CASTORO . BRANA, DE Leomardis
    CAVALUZZI , CIRRIELLO, …They are all gone now..i am the last survivor ….THANKS for the story and the memories …What a shame ,some of the youth today …will never know the sweat the blood and the tears
    that were endured …the passage of 3000 miles from their homeland to raise their familys in dignity and peace …..GOD BLESS THEM ALL.

    Anthony Ferrarese

    January 8, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    • Great memories Anthony. Actually, the feast you refer to is from Quasano,a suburb of Toritto. That feast still goes on today (maria Santissima dei Angeli). It is held in Buoncammino Park in NJ. Your fathers town is Gravina

      John M

      January 9, 2012 at 8:40 am

      • You Are Correct …my fathers town is GRAVINA …But his grandfather came fro (ravina ) in the province of emilia romagna many years before …My god father Philip Castor was also an ice man …i miss the days when he would lift me up to the back of his truck to get a piece of ice …May they all rest in peace …

        Anthony Ferrarese

        June 15, 2012 at 2:06 pm

  18. My grandparents are from Bari, Italy, we have been going to the feast since i was born (60 years ago) and my family before me. Our name is Quattromini,we have the very first spot to the left when you come in the park.

    yes it is wonderful this tradition, we all get together every year and get to see our growing family and their kids. We miss the family that is not with us any more and feel close to them when we go to the feast. I have alot of wonderful memories growing up with my cousins and sleeping in our grandfathers truck over night, we did get into some mischief lol, it was wonderful. Loved the lemon ices, and back then we use to have a clam bar, oh how i loved those clams with the oysterettes and coctail sauce, and the italian souveniors, was such fun to buy toys and then do that all for my kids as i got older, it is a wonderful time.

    Helen Boyle

    August 7, 2012 at 12:42 pm

  19. Wow this is great. I have been going to the feast since I was a baby too and I ALWAYS looked forward to it. I went through a phase where I thought going to the jersey shore with my friends was more important, but that was only 2-3 years until I realized how much I cherish this tradition. i was surprised to read the story of the miracle because my family never told me it. I was also surprised to find out that it occurred in 1903. I was under the impression that it was a very old tradition brought from Altamura. My father is from Altamura. Our name is Dininno. I recognize a few last names that were mentioned, Quattromini and Moramarco. I don’t think they are directly related to the ones I know, but I assume they must be further back in the family tree. Moramarco is my grandmothers maiden name.

    Michael

    September 3, 2012 at 10:28 pm

  20. We have been going to this feast for many years and are from Bari as well, however the feast we attend us not in Labor Day it is always the first Sunday in June. My father is a member of the society as well as wast grandfather and great grandfather. This year my parents are the presidente and will be marching at the head of the procession. My great grandfather used to house the statue of the Madonna in his house when it wasn’t in use for the feast. This is a part of our family history and we look forward to it every year!

    Jeannette Scarola

    June 2, 2013 at 10:47 am

    • That is a different society. I am assuming it is the Torrito society based on that you said your feast is on the first Sunday in June, which is today. The Buoncammino society owns the park and our feast is on Labor Day weekend.

      M

      June 2, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      • Jeannette is refering to Our Lady of the Angels Feast in June. It is for the folks from Torittio (quasano). It is a great feast also with President Mauro Ferroveecchio. I was there yetserday Jeanette

        john M

        June 3, 2013 at 7:59 am

  21. Wondering If anyone has video Taped this ,and could possibly make a you tube video and paste the announcement here so i we can find it ???

    Anthony Ferrarese

    July 11, 2013 at 7:30 pm

  22. […] August, my family gets together for a reunion of sorts: we call it a Feast (capital F) and it’s hosted by my grandfather’s Italian society out in a private park. In many […]

  23. Hello,
    My name is Grazia Gabriella Nanna, and I am from Altamura.
    I am currently working on my thesis which focuses on “Madonna del Buoncammino”, and I trying to collect all kinds of information about this topic.
    I would really appreciate if You – as the other Altamurani’s relatives as well – could cooperate with me for this ambicious project.
    Feel free to contact me at my Facebook account,” Grazia Gabri Nanna”( I should be the only one named like this.)
    Thank you

    Grazia Gabriella Nanna

    February 24, 2015 at 11:56 am

  24. My grandparents were from Altamura and were members of the society. When my grandmother, Angelina Forte, died in 1976 we sadly never returned to the feast. (I believe my grandfather, Angelo Forte died in 1955 and I never met him.) Our years of going to the feast are some of the best family memories we have. I’m trying to find information about how to visit once again. Are there still fireworks on the last night? Can we come just to visit? I would love to learn more about our ancestry and their relationship to this feast. There is no one left to ask any questions of.

    Thank you for a wonderful essay that brought me right back to my childhood and wonderful memories that will never be forgotten. I can still smell the food cooking and hear the band. I walked in the “procession” proudly!!

    Thank you again for making me cry and making me laugh!!

    Donna (Cavalluzzi) Murgola

    September 3, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    • Donna your comments came at the perfect time. The feast dates were shifted by a day, some years back, so day one occurred yesterday, and today is day two. Unfortunately we no longer do fireworks, but there are many attractions for the kids and the feast is alive and better than ever. You are always welcome to come and check it out. For the best experience you should try to meet with family because the park is composed of individual family tables, as you may remember.

      M

      September 4, 2016 at 9:28 am

      • My wife and I stopped by the feast yesterday. We hadn’t been there in almost 40 years! Both of my grandparents were from Altamura and came over through Ellis Island around 1910. As a kid, I fondly remember going to the feast in the 60s and through the 70s and into the early 80s. Our family name is Peragine. It brought back so many memories dropping by yesterday. Our extended families stopped going in the 80s after the deaths of my aunts/uncles. It would be great to join the society again and start coming back to the feast after 40 years. How can I get some information? Thanks for your help!

        John Peragine

        September 5, 2016 at 9:57 am

      • I’m am Vice President Call me at 718 626 8281 and we will discuss your coming back. We would love to have you

        John mustaro

        September 5, 2016 at 3:16 pm

      • Great John. Thanks. I’ll call you this week. Take care.

        John Peragine

        September 5, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      • M, Thank you so much for the information and for getting back to me. I didn’t read this in time and my husband and I dropped by the park this morning (after all was over). However, two absolutely wonderful gentlemen gave us a tour and we traveled back in time! Such gracious hosts made us feel like we were “home” again. We were blessed beyond words and have been talking about it ever since! So many beautiful memories and their kindness was overwhelming. We will surely be in touch with John to make plans for next year with our family. Thank you again!

        Donna (Cavalluzzi) Murgola

        September 5, 2016 at 6:52 pm


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