Saint Rocco’s Feast in Johnston bounces back, breaks records


Team Saint Rocco’s 81st Feast and Festival is now in the books and as Co-Chairman Richard Montella offered Monday afternoon: “This was one to remember; for as long as I have records, this was our most successful event to date.”

A record, Montella said with a wide smile on his face, “which was achieved despite many variables we can’t control.” Team Saint Rocco achieved and met its goals by a group of volunteers who were willing to work to benefit the Roman Catholic parish that’s located at 927 Atwood Avenue in Johnston.

For starters, Rev. Angelo N. Caruisi broke two elbows prior to the feast and there was rain on opening night last Thursday. Moreover, the heat index was over 100 degrees as well as the pandemic being on the rise again.

“Despite all of the challenges, our community exceeded every expectation I could possibly imagine,” Montella added. “While everyone worked to their best, two younger individuals – Mitchell Parrillo and Mathew Levesque –  stood out in my eyes; their work ethic is incredible. While everyone worked to their best, these two young men never once questioned anything that was asked and they restored my faith in the future of the parish.”

Montella also emphasized that an event like the feast and festival takes a team that is willing to work hard, face challenges and not let them hold you back and give everything you can to be successful.

Perhaps that’s why Gov. Daniel McKee and his wife Sudan – a.k.a. Rhode Island’s First Lady – were impressed with the going-on Sunday during a visit with countless parishioners led by District 1 Councilwoman Linda Folcarelli.

The tireless and personable co-chairman then touted the parish’s extraordinary Women’s Guild, led by Arlene Troia, that reached a milestone by selling 103,000 hand-rolled straws and securing over 600 prizes for people playing the Straw Game to choose from and they all, Montella emphasized, “were meticulously wrapped.”

Thus, “Troia’s Troop”, as people have called the dedicated group of volunteers, received plaudits from countless people and as Montella assessed: “They should each be proud of their efforts.”

Montella, who has been in the sales industry for the past 37 years, also offered: “I would give anything to have Sister Donna on my team. She worked tirelessly throughout the year to secure religious articles to raise money for the parish. Her passion to our community is an inspiration to us all and she has taken this passion to the school as our television spokesperson. We have come to learn that not many can say no to her.”

Festival-goers have become accustomed to enjoying the finest food of any festival in Rhode Island and that, Montella offered, “it is nowhere more evident than in our Pastry Shoppe, led by Lisa Ciunci and her team that provided a wide assortment of homemade treats.”

That’s why as Montella added: “Sales were the highest in 17 years and many, many people heaped rave reviews on Lisa’s Spumoni Pound Cake that in some cases created a need for seconds.”

There was another area that seemed to have an endless line of visitors who throughout the four days and nights, enjoyed golden deep fried doughboys made from fresh dough made daily and was donated “a great friend of our parish” – Donald DePetrillo – who owns and operates The Original Italian Bakery located next door to the church.

Also, as many, many people told Montella and other committee members: “This (feast and festival) is the complete package; great carnival rides and games (per Rockwell Amusements) and excellent entertainment from start to finish.”

For example, Sunday afternoon’s headliners – Starzz Entertainment – put on a sparkling performance which was also a special tribute to Jack Martone of the R&J Review who is ill and in the hospital.

“We are all praying Jack has a speedy recovery,” said Lisa D’Ambra, the promotion’s public relations director for Starzz Entertainment. “We dedicated today’s show in his honor.”

The Starzz Entertainment show included the “special voices of”  leader Steve Quirini, who is known as “Elvis” and Audra Lee Lanna, who received loud applause from people sitting under the “Big Top” who watched their performance that also included vocalist George Grimes.

Likewise, they were backed by DJ Bill – a.k.a. Bill Thomas – who provided the musical backdrop for the three singers.

All of which led to Saint Rocco’s enjoying its biggest and best feast and festival ever.

So Monday, when Montella was assessing Saint Rocco’s 8th annual fun and food fest, he offered: “Someone asked me when we being planning for next year’s feast and I said around the first of the year. Well, this morning Lucille Sauro gave me a big bag of straws that need to be rolled, so I guess it’s game on for ‘22!”

That’s also when parish members will again bring their enthusiasm and commitment that included work details such as building booths, setting up tables and chairs, laying electrical lines, lighting, setting up cooking equipment as well as the breaking down on Sunday evening and despite having worked long for four straight days included four dozen plus volunteers who are proud to be part of “Team Saint Rocco’s.”


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