There will be Italian traditions, live music, and even a cannoli eating contest. The event has attracted 60,000 thousand spectators in past years.
Headlining this year's festivities will be award-winning actor Danny Aiello, who will sing popular standards from his 2004 debut album "O Just Wanted to Hear the Words."
The festival, which stretches from Fourth and Hudson streets to the area in front of Sinatra Park, will begin Thursday Sept. 7 at 5 p.m. and conclude with a raffle at 10 p.m. Sunday. The feast is being held in honor of the Madonna Dei Martiri (Madonna of Martyrs), the patron saint of the Italian Town of Molfetta, from which the feast originated some 607 years ago.
In keeping with the festival's tradition, an 800-pound statue of the Madonna will be carried through the streets from St. Francis Church to Pier A, where it will be carried onto a New York Waterway Ferry and taken along the harbor to bless the boats. In addition, the ferry will travel across the Hudson River to Ground Zero, where a wreath will be placed in the water close to where the tower fell in memory of the victims and the sacrifices made on Sept. 11, 2001.
Fireworks, live bands, and a pizza-eating contest
The festival will kick off with "Broad Band," an all-girl rock band with a unique garage-punk sound that makes them stand out from the crowd. Later that night, the boys will make their presence known as well, with "Spit-Roast Muppet," a contemporary '80s/'90s rock cover band.
As the music dies down, revelers can take part in a pizza-eating contest at 8:30 p.m. open to all in attendance, courtesy of D'Allano's Concessions. The winner of the competition will receive $100 in cash.
The feast continues the next day with a tribute to Ed Sullivan's 50th Anniversary Show, when Elvis took to the stage and did his historical hip-shaking gesture. Ed Sullivan Impersonator Bob Rumba, a multi-talented performer whose abilities have landed him on ABC, NBC and CBS programs, including the Oprah Winfrey Show, will host the tribute.
Beatles impersonators will also be on hand to shake things up.
On Saturday, the festival returns to its cultural roots with the famous Madonna Dei Martiri procession. While statue makes its way throughout the city from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., those at the feast will enjoy "Gruppa Cultura d'Italia," a traditional Italian band that plays folk music from the old country. The show will be followed by the award winning tenor Frank Tenaglia who, originally from the south of Philadelphia, has traveled extensively through the states performing with an array of orchestras and opera companies.
Singer Moreno Fruzzetti of Pisa, Italy will take the stage at 5 p.m. Fruzzetti's repertoire includes both Italian and American ballads such as Volare, Unchained Melody, and Ave Maria.
From 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., the band ERA 4,000 will perform Italian pop songs such as Ti Amo, while the crowd be given a chance to indulge their senses in a cannoli eating competition at 8:30 p.m., courtesy of Oliveri & Sons, a bakery supplier from North Bergen. The winner of the competition will receive $200 in cash.
The night will conclude with a fireworks show on Pier A lasting from 9 p.m. to approximately 9:45 p.m.
The last day of the feast begins with a Hoboken Acoustic jam session, which was described by festival spokesman Gregory Gallo as a cover band playing in the style of MTV Unplugged. The jam session will be followed by an Italian Muppet show in which children are invited to participate.
At 5 p.m., Hoboken's police and fire departments will take center stage in the annual grape stomping contest. The competition will involve two members from each department who will each be given a minute to stomp as many grapes as they can.
The juice will be collected in a five-gallon glass jar where it will be measured to determine who won. An amount of $500 will be given to the charity of the winning department's choice. Since the contest began, Hoboken's Police Department has won three out of the four years, with one year declared a tie.
Following the competition, Louis Vanaria, who is most known for his character "Crazy Mario" in Robert DeNiro's 1995 hit movie "A Bronx Tale," will be performing a Vegas-inspired musical act. Vanaria will be performing Louis Prima style songs, which are upbeat, lively Italian songs.
Another actor who has graced the big screen and found a place behind the microphone is Franc D'Ambrosio, who played Michael Corleone's son in Godfather III. D'Ambrosio was also the longest running Phantom in Broadway's Phantom of the Opera, performing over 2,600 times without missing a single show. The talented opera singer will perform various Broadway songs.
The festival will conclude with a special performance by Danny Aiello, who will sing popular standards from the 1930s, '40s, and '50s eras.
The final event of the festival will be the annual super 50/50 raffle drawing. The proceeds will be equally divided between the winner and the festival to help pay for attractions such as the amusement park rides located in Stevens University's parking lot.
Last year's raffle winner brought home just under $9,000.
The space, which was donated by Stevens, will house a Ferris wheel, a "contained trapeze," an inflatable obstacle course, a children's roller coaster, and a rock-climbing wall.
The history of the feast
In 1399, the festival made its debut in the Adriatic town of Molfetta, located in the Bari region of Italy. There, locals gathered every September to pay homage to the Madonna and procure a blessing for their fishing vessels, which played a significant role in the success of their local economy.
The feast involved a procession through the streets in which a statue of the Virgin Mary would wind up being placed on two rafts equipped with sails and taken out to the harbor to bless the fleet. As Molfetta grew to become a major fishing port of 68,000 inhabitants, so did the festival, which now includes rides, music, fireworks, and an animal fair as well as various vendors from throughout the region.
In the late 19th century, Italian immigrants from Molfetta established The Society of the Madonna Dei Martiri [SMDM] in Hoboken to promote Italian culture to future generations of immigrants and their descendents. The feast did not begin in Hoboken until 1927.
For more information about the 2006 Italian Festival, log onto www.hobokenitalianfestival.com.
Michael Mullins can be reached at email@example.com