Festival of Saint Rocco (revisited) – Cleveland

25.) Festival of Saint Rocco (revisited) – Cleveland – September 1, 2014

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Author’s Note: I last reviewed this festival on a mid-afternoon Sunday in 2010.  The crowds were minimal, the broadcasting of old skipping Italian music was surreal and my experience was just, in short, a bad one. You can read that experience here –  http://ohiofestivals.net/57-st-roccos-italian-festival-cleveland-september-5-2010/

After various parishioners and festival fans asked me to return, I finally decided to give the festival a second shot and come back on the busiest day of the weekend – the day of the Greasy Pole Climb.

It also turned out to be the 100th anniversary!

Auguri, San Rocco!

This is a post of that experience.

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I returned to St. Rocco’s on their 100th anniversary…

…where the crowds were much greater than my visit 4 years ago.

As before, I checked out all the rides and games that lined along the sides of the church…

…I browsed through the sunglasses…

…and even considered getting some Puerto Rican grub…

…but I knew that would be a bad bet (pun intended)…

…since something seemed different.

Along with the usual walled, and seemingly hidden, booths of Italian grub…

…offering pizza…

…zeppole…

…cookies, coffee…

…and Italian ice…

…I found more Italian food spread about via a tent selling meatballs and pasta…

…a grill making Italian sausage sandwiches…

…a booth steaming shellfish…

…and a hall with its own menu (plus a line out the door).

Unlike my last experience, where I felt the Italian element was overshadowed by carnival and non-Italian food, I felt much different this time around…

…and happily got myself a bowl of pasta with meatball…

…gobbling it down to the melodies of Classic Rock…

…and then headed straight to the zeppole counter…

…for a dolce calabrese…

…whereas other festival goers bought them by the bagful (bags donated by McDonald’s).

As people passed the time on Instant Bingo…

…and plastic cups of beer…

…the start time of the Greasy Pole Climb drew closer.

As the flags and food waved in the wind…

…the sun warmed the red grease enough to roll down in globs…

…and splatter to the ground.

The crowds filled in around the pole and it was the longest 30 minutes I’ve waited in some time…

…especially with the proximity of other warm and sweaty festival goers on all sides (I was actually much closer to the pole than where this pic was taken).

I felt like a big sweaty mess.

Then the competition began.

And as each team of five tried to climb the pole…

…in order to touch the downward triangle point…

…I realized my closeness to the pole could get me a whole lot messier!

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Second Author’s Note: A special Thank You to the woman who offered me her festival program.

You know who you are! 🙂

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