The Mt. Carmel Festival, put on by the Mt. Carmel Society, offers many Italian food vendors, a carnival, live entertainment and the dance of the Baby Doll, which brings an explosive performance.
2024 DATE: July 17-20, 2024
Location: Mt. Carmel Society
102 Washington St
Lowellville, OH 44436
The following post documents my experience on July 21, 2023.
Every year, the Mt. Carmel Society holds the Mt. Carmel Festival to celebrate Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (Mary), whose feast day is July 16. The celebration occurs along a closed section of Washington Street in front of the Society building, while a music stage, more food vendors, games and carnival take are held in the large parking lot and grounds beyond.
While it’s not a church festival, the Italian culture and Catholicism are pretty much intertwined so many traditions have religious roots, especially the dance of the Baby Doll, which I’ll talk more about later, and the procession of the statue of the Madonna.
That being said, like an Italian church festival (and many cultural church festivals), there is less of an emphasis on gift vendors and more on food, games and music.
If you have never been to the festival, I thought I would help you out on parking.
The festival location is near a river and a bridge and an area where parking can be an issue.
I made the mistake of crossing the bridge and turning onto River Road, where a sign indicated parking. Unfortunately, the lot was packed and a long line of traffic coming from the opposite direction was stopped (telling me that there were no spots). I ended up finding the next bridge a few miles down the road just to get back to the north side of the river, turn around and try again.
This time, I found a field used for parking along E Water St (east of 3rd St) where parking was free and there were still spaces.
Here’s an image to indicate where the festival is. The lot I first passed is right next to the festival location (I saw signs that said parking was $10 there). The lot I eventually parked at for free is to the right. The walk wasn’t bad at all.
Once you pass the street barriers and enter the festival on the main street, it’s obvious that there’s a focus on food.
Red, green and white signage dominate the area with promises of pizza, stromboli and pasta.
Then there are more regional companies and foods to the area, like DiRusso’s Italian Sausage and stuffed hot peppers.
Those who wanted something different had choices as well: Mexican street tacos and Chinese food were available like everything else…
..and who doesn’t love a burger?
But with some of the food displays, the aromas and the people eating cheesy, saucy dishes in the street, it was hard not to go the Italian way.
So I headed to Bogey’s (Lowellville’s own)…
…and got myself a bracciole sandwich with hot peppers and escarole and it was messy and delicious.
La Buona Fortuna/Games
There were all sorts of ways to test your good luck and/or skill, depending on the game.
If you like to use Karma to your advantage, supporting local fundraisers could bring you rewards that include a quarter of a cow.
Or you could head to the court and show off your bocce skills as the audience cheers you on.
The majority of risk takers came to the big tent, where spinning wheels and shuffling cards gave festival goers the hopes of winning some extra cash…
…but some took delight simply being in front of the Mt. Carmel Society…
…and playing a few friendly games of Morra…
…which was entertaining for all to watch.
There were even more games at the Carnival.
And people of all ages took a chance to win among an assortment of prizes.
But, of course, the carnival offered an assortment of rides…
…as well as inflatables for the smaller children.
During most of the festival hours, most of the entertainment was found at the stage…
…and it was nice to hang around with a beer or slice of pizza and enjoy the performance.
But the festival’s main attraction was advertised here…
…and it’s called the Baby Doll Dance.
The Baby Doll, brought over from Pacentro, Italy (Abruzzo region) over a century ago, is a female figure with outstretched arms and a dress. The figure is set onto a person who “dances” while the arms are lit, starting a show of fireworks and sparkles. Eventually, the head will also ignite and shoot off a few finale rockets, although the head used to be blown off completely in years past!
According to the festival literature, the dance “is meant to signify hope for a new year and the exploding fireworks on her arms and head represent the banishing of one’s troubles and misfortune.”
It’s definitely an interesting tradition and, while I didn’t get to see it myself, I found a video so that you can see the tradition yourself.
And Buona Festa.