A beloved tradition with roots back to the early 1900s returns to South Philadelphia this weekend. The Annual St. Nicholas of Tolentine Authentic Italian Festival will be held Sunday, Oct. 1.
One of the largest authentic Italian festivals of the year is back after the pandemic and will start with the annual religious procession throughout the neighborhood with a long line of the Statues of Saints and their faithful following. The festival began in 1987 on the occasion of the parish’s 75th anniversary and has been thriving ever since. The event takes place annually on the first Sunday of October and is held on the 1700 Block of South 9th Street.
“We wanted to create an opportunity for our entire community, not just our parishioners, to come together and celebrate one of the many diverse cultures that make our neighborhood so great,” said Rev. Nick Martorano, pastor of the church.
This year, the festival will host a special ceremony to honor the late Bobby Rydell, Charlie Gracie, and Jerry Blavat, who were all lost over a 9 month period last year. These three great entertainers have performed numerous times at the annual Italian Festival and for other occasions at St. Nicholas over the years. All three are on the Walk of Fame and the Philadelphia Music Alliance will share a citation.
“All three of these performers were deeply committed to St. Nicholas and were always conscious of their South Philadelphia roots,” said Martorano, adding that Gracie was baptized and raised as a parishioner at St. Nicholas, and Rydell and Blavat grew up nearby.
Committee member Frank Quinn added: “Over the last year as we received the news of these great men passing, we decided to dedicate this year’s festival to these fine ambassadors of our parish and community.” At 5 p.m., there will be a ceremony honoring the life of Rydell, Gracie and Blavat, and a presentation to their families in appreciation for all their support over the years.
This year’s food vendors will include The Kitchen Consigliere, Marra’s Pizza, Esposito Porchetta, Termini Bros Bakery, Del Buono Bakery and others. Entertainment will include The East Passyunk Opera Project, Nick Desiderio, The Vivaci Dancers, That’s Amore: The Great Italian-American Songbook, Quaker City String Band, City Rhythm “Love Train Dance Party,” Lights Out and DJ Spanky Brown.
There will also be plenty of family fun for the kids with rides, face painting, games, sandy candy, sand art and more. The festival is free and open to the public, with food and drink pay as you go. In the event of bad weather, the rain date is Sunday, Oct. 8. For more information, visit www.stnicksitalianfestival.com