As the 123rd annual Feast of Maria Santissima Lauretana kicked off in Niles on Friday, Chicago’s Sicilian Band played and marched in the middle of the festival, stopping in front of an elaborate temple tent.
The band serenaded the insiders; many were sitting in front of large stands filled with red flowers, others were lighting candles, and others were lining up to pray in front of the sacred painting of Maria Santissima Lauretana, the name of the Catholic Virgin Mary. The festival and religious observance are celebrated by the people of the Altavilla Milicia region of Sicily, who export many indigenous boys and girls from the Italian region to Chicago.
The Feast of Maria Santissima Lauretana is one of Chicago’s largest and longest running Italian festivals and includes food, vendors, entertainment, rides, processions, and the famous ‘Flight of the Angels’, an old country tradition where two little girls dress alike. angels “fly” over the crowd via a system of ropes and pulleys and chant prayers.
The festival took place September 1-3 at Golf Mill Park, just south of the Golf Mill Mall, and the carnival portion remains open on Labor Day.
This year marks a milestone: the 123rd anniversary of the festival held in Chicago, but the 400th for Altavilla Milicia. The traditional feast day is September 8 and is recognized on that day in Italy.
“I love this festival,” said Rosemary Filipic of Niles, participant.
Tradition accepts the Catholic history of the Virgin Mary painting that landed on the Sicilian coastline near Altavilla Milicia four centuries ago. The religious artifact inspired the construction of a church and shrine in the town.
Angelo Camarda of Elmwood Park is festival president of the Maria Santissima Lauretana Altavilla Milicia Society in Chicago, which hosts the Maria SS Feast. lauretan
Camarda said the world needs the Blessed Mother more than ever, especially because of forest fires and recent environmental events where global heat has affected humanity.
“We absolutely need the Virgin Mary to help us, to watch over us, to watch over the whole world,” Camarda said. “We do.”
Salvatore Camarda, Camarda’s nephew from Chicago, is co-chairman of the festival and serves at the food vendor booth of the family business Joseph’s Finest Meats of Chicago.
Italian sausage, Italian meat sandwiches and other dishes were served at the stand.
Salvatore Camarda said that the festival is also an opportunity for friendship to share food as a community.
“Food is really what brings the family together,” said Salvatore Camarda. “The Holy Mother is indeed the center of the family, and when you think of a family structure, the mother is always in the center, especially in Italians.”
Speaking of Italian food, what goes with pasta, red sauce or gravy?
“This is sauce,” both Camarda relatives said, laughing in unison.
“I know this is going to turn into a serious discussion because there are a few people who would say sauce, but this is sauce,” Salvatore Camarda said with a smile.
The Chicago Sicilian Marching Band performed halfway through, captivating audiences like Portage Park’s Jim Monaco.
“It’s a matter of inheritance, you know?” said Monaco. “My whole family is Italian.
“It’s a good time.”
It was Virginia Ireland of Bolingbrook who enthusiastically performed with the band.
“We’re really enjoying it,” said Ireland.
Walking with the band on tenor saxophone was Sherry Bucaro from the Algonquin area of Kane County.
“It’s a 400-year-old tradition that we’re a part of,” said Bucaro.
“It is an honor to be a part of it.”