It’s a feast and festival unlike any other, an event that’s been going on for decades at Our Lady of Grace Church in Johnston. And it will be back beginning next Thursday, Sept. 9, and continuing through Sunday, Sept. 12.
Countless people will tell you it’s considered one of Rhode Island’s best end-of-summer events, especially when it comes top home cooked Italian foods, Don DePetrillo’s delicious doughboys, family fun and those always popular carnival rides and games of chance.
The Feast and Festival at the Roman Catholic Church is held each year in honor of La Madonna della DiFesa. This year’s event will also serve as a terrific tribute to two of Our Lady of Grace’s most cherished parishioners.
“Our 101st feast is an exciting time for our parish, especially after such a tumultuous time over the past year,” said the Rev. Pete J. Gower, the church’s pastor. “However, everyone here at Our Lady of Grace is still saddened because of the loss of two giants, Joe ‘Joe Q’ Quartino and Carol Cambio – people that were so very dear to our hearts and worked so hard in so many different ways, but especially the feasts.”
Quartino served as the feast’s long-time co-chairman, while Cambio was an admired chef who many praised for coordinating some of the state’s best homemade Italian food.
Gower said Quartino “worked diligently in so many ways at the church and during our feasts. He was with us for many, many years as a custodian taking care of all the needs of the parish facilities and also spending hours and hours when it came close to the feast. Joe Q worked with all the volunteers making sure the kitchen staff was in place the food ready to cook.”
Cambio, Gower said, “would combine her cooking skills for our menus that made our festival so successful.”
“They’re going to be deeply missed by the parish and we honor them this year knowing that from that place in the eternal life they’ll be looking down upon us and blessing us, as we thank them so very much for everything they’ve done and they are tremendously missed,” he added.
When the Feast and Festival begins next week at Festival Field off Sheridan Street in Johnston, Joann Burley will be co-chairing the event. She has taken on Quartino and Cambio’s roles.
“She’s doing a tremendous job, working many, many hours to keep everything running smoothly while coordinating purchasing food, paper goods and lining up cooks and other parishioners to ensure the success of the 2021 feast,” Gower said. “I really like all that she’s doing, but most of all she’s another example of why our parish is so vibrant.”
With that, Gower said the Feast and Festival observance will actually begin Wednesday, Sept. 8, with a Mass at 6 p.m. followed by a 7 o’clock candlelight procession and rosary.
“Everything will swing into high gear next Thursday, Sept. 9, from 5 to 9 p.m. with carnival ride Rockwell Amusements for kids of all ages and our famous Italian American-themed food booths,” he said. “Our 101st feast menu will range from a plate of macaroni and meatballs to sausage, rabe sandwiches, arancini (delicious rice balls), calamari, polenta, sausage and pepper sandwiches topped off on Sunday and a full lasagna dinner.”
He added: “No food trucks he like you’ll find at other feasts, with everything lovingly made by our talented chef volunteers. And get this – no food item costs more than $10. Beer and wine will be served in the Beer Garden underneath the Big Top.”
There will be entertainment each night with Timeless on Friday night and Saturday evening until 11 p.m. Sunday’s entertainment will run from noon to 4 p.m. featuring Second to None. Sunday’s schedule till begin with a solemn Mass at 10:30 a.m. in honor of La Madonna della Difesa followed by a procession of her statute through nearby streets with an honor guard provided by the Johnston Police Department.
Admission is free and all events will be held rain or shine. All community members are welcome.
Sunday will be special with the grand raffle drawing featuring $7,000 in prizes to be drawn in the afternoon. Tickets can be purchased at the church after weekend masses. For more information, call 401-231-2220.