This time, it ain’t a movie shoot. The 128th annual Giglio Feast is underway for reals in Williamsburg. Yesterday’s opening night brought a ferris wheel, sausage and peppers, raw clams, ribs, cigars, and much more to the area surrounding Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church at North 8th Street and Union Avenue. If you missed the mass and candlelit procession, don’t worry — there’s no need to say ten Hail Marys, cuz the party’s just getting started: Blood Brothers will be belting out some Springsteen tonight in the church gym.
If you’re asking yourself, “Okay, love Bruce, but a whole gigolo festival?”, you’re probably new to this. Yes, you will find a couple of guys inviting you to taste their balls, but it’s meatballs they’re taking about. We’re talking gigli here — like the Ben Affleck bomb. Legend (and the feast’s website) has it that the festival began back in Nola, Italy, sometime around 410 AD: that’s when San Paolino, a local bishop who had traded himself to pirates in order to free some kids they had taken, made a safe return to the village and was greeted with gigli, i.e. lilies. The feast became an annual tradition and southern Italian immigrants brought it to Williamsburg in the late 1880s, eventually replacing the boring ol’ lilies with a towering flower-festooned wooden steeple.
On Sunday, sometime after 1 p.m., the four-ton tower (now made mostly of metal and decorated with saints, angels, and, at the top, San Paolino himself) will once again be lifted by over a hundred men and made to “dance” as a band plays “O’ Giglio ‘e Paradiso.” For a taste of that, check out the nutballs trailer for this year’s feast.
There’ll also be a lift of the boat you see here, which will carry a band and confetti-throwing kids dressed in “Arabian costumes.”
In the meantime, bands will be roving the street fair, which continues daily through July 19. Here’s a little bit of last night’s action.