Sunday, August 16, 2015

FRANKLIN: Feast of Saint Rocco: It's the Food!

Feast of St. Rocco delights

FRANKLIN Massachusetts- Thousands of people descended upon the grounds of St. Mary’s in Franklin Saturday to honor St. Rocco, the patron saint of the sick, at the 37th annual event in his name.

The Feast of St. Rocco, a weekend-long festival with food, games, carnival rides, music and other activities, began with the story of Nick Verna, which is printed each year in the event’s booklet.

According to the story, Verna, as a child, became ill. After the boy failed to show improvement for some time, his mother took him to a shrine of St. Rocco not far from their home.

“After the visit, Nick began to improve and was soon well,” the story tells. “His mother often told him that he owed his life to St. Rocco.”

After recovering, Verna made a promise to St. Rocco that he would erect a statue of the saint in St. Mary’s church and in 1959, he was finally granted permission to do so on the grounds behind the old St. Mary’s School.

By 1979, shrubbery had grown and hid the statue from view, but Father Michael Guarino rediscovered the statue and declared that a feast should be held in honor of the saint and Verna’s story, according to Peter Brunelli, one of the event’s co-chairmen.

Brunelli, escaping the heat with co-chairmen Michael DeGrazia and Tom Olsen in a small office on the grounds, said the event, which takes a year of planning and coordinating, keeps growing.

Planning for the event never ends, and even during the event Saturday, Brunelli said a band has already been hired for next year and he was keeping tabs on how much food was sold so far so they can prepare for next year’s event.

“It gets bigger every year,” he said, adding that the event typically draws about 6,000, mainly due to the 900 pounds of sausages, 650 pounds of dough and 6,000 cannoli and other homemade Italian food on hand at the feast.

“Everybody tells us – it’s the food,” he said.

Zachary Comeau can be reached at 508-634-7556 and Follow him on Twitter @ZComeau_MDN.