In our desire to continue our traditional cultural happenings, we will strive to maintain, schedule and celebrate our old country Italian customs.
St. Anthony’s Day
Celebration was conceived by and begun through the efforts of Feliciano
Susi, Iaffette Celli, Carlo Marcozzi, Luigi Marcozzi, Francesco Covelli,
Romini and Guido Sulpizi. This committee was an entity in itself and separate from the St. Anthony Club and St. Anthony Society although they used their resources.
Present at the first meeting included:Antonio Coccia, Gaetano Astolfi, Enrico Marinelli, Giovanni and Pietro Camelli, Pasquale Vannucci, Domenico Stortini, Giacinto DiSantis, Luigi Indellini, Orazio Arcidiacano, Nicola Scarmozzi, Enrico and Illario Manetti. x
The members met at Antonio’s Pool Hall then located at 9th & Young Sts. The group elected Feliciano Susi as the first president, Francesco Covelli as vice president, Romini Sulpizi as secretary and Antonio Coccia as treasurer. Afterwards the elected committee officers would meet in the homes of the officers and formulate plans for the celebration.
Elections took place
in this manner until the St. Anthony’s Society was organized in 1932 to
officially take over managing the Celebration. With the purchase of No. 3 Public School building and the formation of St.
Anthony’s Club in 1933, the Society would meet there annually to elect the committee officers for the celebration.
In the beginning the feast would be celebrated on the day that St. Anthony is honored – June 13th. The men would take off from work and later since many worked at the American Manganese (Abex) and Deemer Steel, the two plants would declare a holiday and close on that day. This custom could not be continued by the two businesses so the celebration was transferred to the Sunday before the feast. In 1965 the celebration was transferred to the Sunday after the feast.
An Italian band would come down from Philadelphia for the occasion. This band continued to supply the music for the feast until 1965. Some of the bands that have played in the procession have been : St. Michaels Band, Zoli Band and Neglia Band.
The band at times would arrive the night before and be housed in the homes of the Italian Community. Otherwise, they arrived in the morning. By 8:00 am, the band would assemble and march through the streets in the West End playing music and arousing the community. As the band passed the home, the family would fall behind it until everyone was in place. The children would be first in the line of march followed by the ladies and lastly the men. On many occasions the children would carry small American and Italian flags. As the marchers made their way to the church, the band would continue to play Italian symphonic marches. The assembly would stop at the convent which was at 5th & Delaware Sts (currently sits the New Castle Library). The Sisters were the official custodians of the banner bearing an image of St. Anthony. An impressive ceremony would be enacted by the Society Officers who would present themselves to the Sisters and the banner was officially turned over to them. The ceremony would be repeated after the procession.
After the ceremony of the banner, the procession continued to St. Peter’s Church. A Solemn High Mass in honor of St. Anthony was sung. After the Mass, the band would enter the church playing a march and the statue of St. Anthony was taken from the altar and ceremoniously carried out of the church to take its place in the procession.
At first, only a banner bearing the image of St. Anthony was carried in the procession. From the banner three ribbon streamers were attached on either side. These were held by six little girls dressed in white while the banner was carried in solemn procession. Later, a statue was purchased and this was carried by four able bodied men. Two flags were carried at the head of the procession – one American and one Italian. These flags were carried by the same individuals annually and when they passed away, their children took their place. Today this honor is alternated among several families. After World War II, the Statue of St. Anthony was placed upon a float that was beautifully decorated. Today the procession includes the one bearing St. Anthony, another carrying the Virgin Mary, the other with the relic of St. Anthony.
Following the Mass, the procession would reassemble in its original order. It would march through the Historical Area of New Castle and work its way towards the West End. When it arrived in the West End, the pace of the procession would be much slower before its return to the Church. During the procession the band would play beautiful Italian symphonic marches and fireworks would be set off along the route.
Upon its return to the Church, the Statue of St. Anthony again would be ceremoniously returned to the altar preceded by the band playing a religious tune followed by the participants. Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament would take place immediately followed by the distribution of blessed St. Anthony’s bread.
Today the celebration takes place in the afternoon. The procession is preceded by the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and after the procession the distribution of the bread.
After the procession, the members of the band would be taken into the homes and dutifully served a full course Italian meal. It was a festive occasion where the community played host to relatives and friends alike who came to New Castle for the celebration.
At midafternoon games and other sporting events took place on 9th Street between Clayton and Young Streets. Some of the games included chasing the greased pig, climbing the grease pole and bocce contest. The band would reassemble and continue to play music on a temporary stand until 5:00 pm. After a brief repast the festivities moved to St. Anthony’s field.
The band would again perform in concert but the mood of the music changed. Overtures and operatic arias would be played. More games and food were available in a carnival atmosphere. The evening would end in a giant fireworks display.
With the development
of Washington Square the festivities briefly moved to St. Peters Church
in 1970 but have since moved back to St. Anthony’s.
The festivities continue today with a few modifications to meet the changing times. The festivities begin shortly after the procession returns to the Church. The grease pole is still an attraction with prizes for those who reach the top. Food and refreshments are served at St. Anthony’s. Some of the remaining families still have their own parties with families and friends.
The sons, daughters and grandchildren of the original organizers in the Italian Community continue to carry on this wonderful tradition with pride and religious zeal.
The celebration of this feast differed from the other two in that it was more communal. The San Giuseppe Quartet consisted of Frank Covelli playing the zimbele, John Ioannoni on the accordion, Nick Scarmozzi carrying the basket and Mike Ioannoni leading the chorus and they would go from house to house in the Italian Community singing the praises of St. Joseph. Donations of food were placed in the basket. This food was later sold and the money collected was used to have Masses said in honor of St. Joseph. Naturally some food and drink was taken for the nourishment of the quartet.
These celebrations continued up to World War II. Unfortunately, after the war the celebrations were not revived.
In the late 1960’s a number of young people began making wine. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, Joe DiMondi arranged to have the first wine tasting party on the Feast of Saint Joseph. This first and subsequent party was held at the Sulpizi residence in Penn Acres. The last wine party was held at the house of Francis DeAscanis.
In 1979, Leon DeAscanis, in his capacity of President of St. Anthony Society, wishing to revive the celebration brought about renewal of interest in the wine tasting party and the celebration of the Feast of St. Joseph. With the help of Tony Quattro, Julius Cini, Angelo Ioannoni, Joe DiAngelo and others the first celebration as we know it today took place on March 19th, 1979.
The first celebration was an all male affair. But in 1980, several women crashed the party and won the prizes so that in 1981 women were permitted to attend, thus again making it a family affair.
Prizes were given to the winners, mora was played and all enjoyed the music of Elio Battista.
The judges for the occasion were Gen. Francis Ianni, Col. Julius Cini, Sgt. Mario DiAngelo, County Councilman Joseph Toner and Ernest Camoirano. Food included porchetta, tripe and Italian cold cuts.
The celebration of San Giuseppe today is a far cry from the way our parents celebrated the feast. Nevertheless the spirit of the celebration remains. Ours is a combination of the three feasts of San Martino,
Carnevale and San Giuseppe. We taste the wine in the spirit of San Martino, enjoy the Italian buffet in the spirit of Carnevale and sing the praises of San Giuseppe in the true tradition of our parents.
Saint Anthony Society compliments St. Peters Christmas Bazaar by cooking spaghetti dinners to attract additional patrons to this annual fundraiser. The bazaar is handled by the Blessed Virgin Mary Sodality and runs for three days. The dinners are served downstairs of St. Peter’s Gym on the last day. Photographs suggest, the early fifties as about when the Ladies of St. Anthony’s Society started to prepare the spaghetti dinners. This group included Edith Gambacorta, Edith DiMario, Rose Gambacorta Yacucci, Rose Ioannoni Peden, Mary Marinelli, Mary Ioannoni, Caroline Covelli, Celeste DeAscanis, and Mrs. Luigi Marcozzi. For reasons unknown, the ladies ceased to cook. The parish then took it over but had little success. Tom Episcopo and Angelo Ioannoni suggested to the Society that they should take over what their mothers/relatives had done for so long: “Cook a real Italian spaghetti dinner”. The Society agreed and started out with 500 dinners. Today, the men of St. Anthony Society donate, prepare and cook the pasta and over 800 sellout dinners are served for the church fundraiser each year. All proceeds benefit St. Peter Church