Continuing Italian tradition
Hoboken’s 86th annual Italian festival starts Thursday
by Vanessa Cruz
Reporter Staff Writer
Sep 02, 2012 | 9019 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
FUN AHEAD – Preparations are well underway for The Hoboken Italian Festival on Sinatra Drive.
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From Thursday, Sept. 6 through Sunday, Sept. 9, a tradition begun over 600 years ago will continue when the annual Hoboken Italian Festival serves up food and entertainment on Sinatra Drive. The annual street fair began as a festival in Molfetta, Italy in 1399, a town from which the ancestors of many Hudson County families originated. 2012 will be the Hoboken Italian Festival’s 86th year on the waterfront.

In 1399, a street festival and religious celebration converged to praise the blessings of the Holy Madonna. The event is usually held on Sept. 8 during the Universal Feast of the Nativity of Mary, according to the festival’s website.

“The Hoboken Italian festival, HIF, is a traditional Italian feast, honoring the Patron Saint Madonna dei Martiri – Mother of Martyrs,” said Greg Gallo, a member of the Society Madonna dei Martiri, which produces the event. “A feast which is derived from the word ‘festa’ or party, is meant to be an annual celebration giving thanks to the patron saint, which is considered the town’s protector.”

Madonna was idolized in Molfetta because crusaders in 1188 found her icon floating in the water on their return from the Holy Land, according to HIF site.
“Passion in our faith is why our tradition has been maintained.” – Greg Gallo
“Passion in our faith is why our tradition has been maintained,” said Gallo. “That passion is handed down from generation to generation, and permeates throughout a community. The people in that community become like one family. You can look at the feast as an annual family reunion for the people of ‘Molfetese’ descent.”

The Society Madonna dei Martiri

The Society was incorporated in the state of New Jersey on Oct. 31, 1927 and was located on 230 Willow Ave. According to Gallo, there are roughly 30 members, with about 20 Italian-born and 10 first generation Italian Americans.

The most prominent change that the Society made was that at one point, they transferred the festival to Sinatra Drive. It is now promoted as The Hoboken Italian Festival in honor of Madonna Dei Martiri.

Festivities and procession

All of the festival events are open to the public.

Thursday Sept. 6 kicks off with a battle of local DJs that begins at 7 p.m., when the DJs will add their own spin to a mix of America’s Top 20, followed by a pizza eating contest beginning at 9 p.m.

“Freestyle Friday” features an all-star cast, including the comeback tour of Judy Torres, a DJ from 103.5 WKTU along with one freestyle group called TKA.

“Our entertainment has evolved from only Italian music to a mix of all music to reflect the changes in the Hoboken community and the surrounding areas,” said Gallo.

Saturday’s big event will be a religious procession, when the statue of the Madonna Dei Martiri is carried throughout the streets, beginning at St. Francis Church at 2 p.m. and transferred to a boat on the waterfront.

The evening’s highlight is a cannoli eating contest, supplied by Carlo’s Bakery, at 8 p.m.

“The Valastro family has been devoted to Madonna dei Martiri for decades, and they have supported the feast for decades as well,” said Gallo. “This year, the bakery has been kind enough to allow us to sell their cannolis at the event – which we believe will be a big hit with Cake Boss fans.”

A fireworks show follows at 9 p.m.

Sunday will feature a grape stomping contest for charity that will pit the Hoboken Police Department against the Fire Department at 5:30 p.m.

For additional information of the Hoboken Italian Festival call (201) 216-0525 or visit

Vanessa Cruz can be reached at

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