St. Ann’s Church, in its 102nd year, looks to once again supply over 100,000 zeppoles – or, fried dough with powdered sugar – to the eager residents and visitors who will wait in line for 45 minutes in 100-degree weather to buy them by the dozen.
The popular St. Ann’s Festival in Hoboken festival begins Friday, July 20 and ends on Thursday, July 26. On the day of the feast (Thursday), a statue of St. Ann is carried down through the streets for roughly five hours.
The festival takes place on the west side of Hoboken on Jefferson Street between Sixth and Eighth streets, and on Seventh Street between Monroe and Adams streets.
“It’s one of our biggest money makers,” said Father Vincent Fortunato, who has served as pastor for the last three years. Fortunato, who works the zeppole booth, says he’s amazed at how long people will wait to get their hands on the homemade delicacy.
“Their parents did it, their grandparents did it, and for them it’s a lot of wonderful memories coming back.” – Father Vincent Fortunato
Fortunato said that the zeppoles are prepared in the basement of the church by some of the female volunteers, who work to knead the roughly 3,000 pounds of dough.
“Somehow these ladies have that recipe down to a science,” said Fortunato. “They’re called the dough ladies. They work downstairs kneading the dough and bring it up [to me].”
While the “St. Ann’s Famous Zeppole” may be one of the major attractions of the annual feast, it’s not the only thing that draws in thousands upon thousands of people every year.
The weeklong festival features rides, games, crafts, tons of food (literally), beer, raffles, and plenty of live entertainment.
A nine-day mass, or novena, will take place nightly leading up to the day of the feast from July 17 to July 25 at 7 p.m.
There is no admission cost for the festival. Sponsors include Miller Lite, WCBS FM 101.1, Shop Rite, Applied Housing, Inserra Supermarkets, Inc. and Bezel Busch Motor Car Corp.
Growing in popularity
Fortunato said that the feast humbly began 102 years ago as a small festival in the courtyard of the church.
“It was always right here at St. Ann’s in Hoboken,” said Fortunato, who added the festival became bigger and bigger every year.
Roughly 25 years ago, the festival began taking place in the streets, and became a fundraiser for the church, Fortunato said.
“It’s at the point where it’s become a very important [source of fundraising] that helps support the operating expenses for the parish throughout the year,” Fortunato said.
As the festival began growing and attracting more crowds, it began to attract the media, such as WCBS FM. Fortunato said this helped to attract great live music.
Fortunato said he is particularly looking forward to some of the live acts this year, which include, Ray Rodriguez y Swing Sabroso, Cristina Fontanelli & Orchestra, Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes, The Nerds, Brass Transit, Steve Lippia sings Simply Sinatra, and the Bronx Wanderers. Each act will perform at 8:15 p.m. on their respective nights.
“This guy blew me away,” said Fortunato of Steve Lippia. “He gives a great tribute to Frank Sinatra.”
Worth the hard work
Fortunato said that although the festival is a lot of work, it ends up being a good time each and every year.
“Even though it’s a lot of work, there is so much fun involved,” said Fortunato, adding that the feast is primarily organized by volunteers Mario Ferrara and Marie Totaro.
Fortunato said that the opportunity to bring people out for a good time is well worth the efforts.
“Many people were born and raised here and have been doing this every year of their life from when they were little kids,” said Fortunato. “Their parents did it, their grandparents did it, and for them it’s a lot of wonderful memories coming back.”
“There’s an excitement, an electricity,” added Fortunato.
For more information, visit www.st-annchurch.com or call (201) 659-1114.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.