OLG's 91st Feast and Festival kicks off in style tonight

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It has been said through the years – nine decades and counting – that Our Lady of Grace Church has one of the largest Italian kitchens in the state.

Moreover, proud parishioners like Carol Cambio and Joe Quartino, just to name a few, have developed a reputation for offering some of the best Italian food this side of Boston’s North End.

So, if you’re looking for a plate of macaroni, lasagna or even a rabe sandwich, be sure to check out Our Lady of Grace’s 91st Italian Feast and Festival, which opens a four-day stay today at 5 p.m. in Johnston. Admission is free, and the event will be held rain or shine.

The feast, which the Rev. Peter J. Gower said “celebrates Mary the Mother of God under the title of Difesa,” will continue through Sunday and offer a variety of Italian foods. There will also be a chance for attendees to win one of five prizes in the $7,000 grand raffle.

“The Madonna originated in the little town of Casacalenda in Italy where some miracles occurred,” Gower said. “Also, some people from that village later left their native land and settled here in Johnston.”

In keeping with tradition, the Feast and Festival is backed by a number of carnival rides and games that have been set up in Festival Field by Rockwell Amusement.

For four successive nights at Festival Field – which is located next to the church at 15 George Waterman Road – more than 200 proud parishioners will be working hard grilling sausage, cutting peppers and serving everything from homemade pasta to pastries.

The event will again offer chowder and clam cakes, and tomorrow night’s feature will be fish and chips along with linguini and quahogs. Patrons can look also look forward to beer and wine served in the event’s special Beer Garden.

Gower said the grand raffle’s top cash prize is $5,000, while other prizes include a New England Patriots package including seats that are only 18 rows off the field at Gillette Stadium.

Tonight’s opening will run from 5 to 9 p.m. and includes entertainment from disc jockey Gary Salzillo, along with Alex Jackson and Legacy. Festival hours tomorrow and Saturday are 5 to 11 p.m., with entertainment by Legacy and Timeless, respectively.

Sunday will be the filled with activity, beginning with the Solemn Mass at 10:30 a.m. in honor of La Madonna della DiFesa. Bishop Robert Evans, auxiliary bishop of Rhode Island, will serve as the principal celebrant and homilist. The traditional procession will follow Mass, and the festival will open at noon and continue through 7 p.m. when the grand raffle drawing will be held.

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