Armed with 140-plus volunteers, “Team Our Lady of “Grace” will present the Roman Catholic Parish’s 101st LaMadonna della DiFesa Feast and Festival that officially opened last night at Festival Field off Sheridan Street in Johnston.
Festivities will range from what’s known as “some of the best homemade and cooked Italian food in Rhode Island” as well as mega raffles — featuring upwards of 50 prizes — including two wide-screen televisions, women’s and men’s jewelry, straw and basket games, pull tabs, a ping pong pull and entertainment all held underneath a giant “Big Top” that covers a good portion of the church grounds.
Likewise, famed Rockwell Amusements — an amusements company owned by Harold Fera — has set up many different rides and booths for games of chance featuring prizes from Teddy Bears for children and inflated life-like characters along with carnival rides.
Perhaps OLG’s annual and ambitious undertaking was best summed up in the words “Best Feast Ever” that were screen printed on parishioner Linda Bessette’s T-shirt.
Although the fun-filled family and food fest seems to get better with age, enthusiasm and excitement is running high from everyone to OLG’s popular pastor Rev. Peter J. Gower to Chairlady Joanne Burley to a myriad of volunteers who’ll man a host of food and game booths for the event that continues through Sunday.
There was yet another tell-tale sign of the pride and passion parishioners have had for OLG, that being the words ”Mangia, Mangia” Father Gower issued whenever someone walked into the kitchen at Fioretti Hall Tuesday to make either a delivery or donation for one of the many raffles.
“Please, help yourself,” said Father Gower. “We’ve got sausage, peppers and onions with fresh rolls, soup and different kinds of pizza; please make a plate and join us.”
Gower issued that statement during a luncheon that had a two-fold meaning and honored one of OLG’s long-time volunteers extraordinaire Marilyn Domenic.
It actually happened during yet another long volunteer work day, which began at 6 a.m. and continued well into the late afternoon. It was also a brief, yet heart-warming ceremony during which a dozen or so people sand “Happy Birthday” to Domenic and presented her with a delicious Boston Crème Cake.
Thus, members of OLG’s work force, who had just finished filling countless trays of green and red peppers they cut, were back at work preparing for the large crowds that will flock to Festival Field and enjoy everything from delicious doughboys to macaroni and meatball dinners, lasagna, veal and mushrooms, sofritto, tripe, arancini, chowder and clam cakes and a host of Italian sandwiches ranging from eggplant to steak, rabe and sausage and much, much more.
“We’ll also have apple crisp with ice cream, cookies cake and pastries,” said Burley.
She also pointed out there will be a beer garden serving bottled beer, wines and wine coolers to go with special menus like tonight’s Fish and Chips and Linguini and clams. Tomorrow, it’s Polenta and Sunday the feature will be OLG’s famous lasagna dinner with salad. Festival hours run today and tomorrow, from 5 to 11 p.m., and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.