St. Rocco’s Italian Festival – Cleveland

57.) St. Rocco’s Italian Festival – Cleveland – September 5, 2010

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: After this review, I got a lot of comments from parishioners that eventually asked for me to come back and give the festival a second shot.

I eventually did return in 2014, where my experience was a lot different.  You can read that review here –

http://ohiofestivals.net/festival-of-saint-rocco-revisited-cleveland/

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On Cleveland’s Fulton Road, St. Rocco’s Church is really a beautiful church to visit…

…for its preserved Italian decor…

…and detailed religious statues.

With its strong Italian origins, I wanted my first visit to be one that brought out its history and culture through celebration.

So what better time to see it than during…

… the St. Rocco’s Italian Festival.

But as I walked onto the church grounds with expectations of strictly Italian fare and entertainment preserved like the church itself…

…I found myself in a midst of carnival rides and fair food booths.

All these non-ethnic diversions infested the festival like the plague that St. Rocco was known to heal people from. They pushed the Italian booths and activities up against the outer church walls or inside the buildings…

…where they hid under Italian shades…

…with foods like zeppole…

…and Italian sausage.

Being that it was mid-afternoon, Julia and I got some coffee from the Italian section, paying only $0.50 a cup – but the coffee was undrinkable. After a few sips, it went into the trash…

…with these tasteless pizzelles.

After seeing all the fair food and having this foodie tragedy, I became skeptical of the festival as a whole. “Mambo Italiano” had just finished on the loudspeaker and another song skipped repeatedly, and ironically, on the words, “Stai zitto” (“Be quiet.”).The whole event seemed rather surreal and Julia gave me a look that said she was near her limit.

So we escaped into a building and found a casino on the upper level…

…consisting of card games and games of chance.

After enjoying the quiet for a few minutes, we headed back downstairs, only to find another staircase around the corner that led to the basement…

…where a restaurant was set up.

On the menu were rigatoni, lasagna and spaghetti and meatball dinners with a few ala carte items, but we decided to pass with the lingering taste of tasteless pizzelles in our mouths.

So we left and stopped at the church, where I finally felt some appreciation. It was only here that I got a sense of the parish, the families that built it and the supporters that brought it into its 96th celebration.And as I took pictures, one of the statues spoke to me. Her eyes, her open mouth, her expression as a whole – it became my own as I walked back to my car…

…that feeling of disappointment.

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