ROTTERDAM – Parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Peace are gearing up for their 14th annual festa this upcoming weekend starting Friday — stirring up sauces, making their famous cavatelli and meatballs and baking Italian cookies in preparation.
Volunteers plan on preparing the last of the food this Wednesday and Thursday so everything is fresh come Friday night.
The big bash will begin on Friday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the church on Princetown Road and pick up again at the same time on Saturday evening. Organizers will take advantage of the daytime on Sunday, though, starting midday at 3 p.m. and ending around 9 p.m.
Coming off two years of COVID-19-related cancellations, it was difficult to “rekindle the fire” among organizers, said Joseph Amoroso, co-chairman of the festa committee with Dino Viscusi.
“You come back and two years later, we’re all two years older,” Amoroso said.
Added Kathy Thompson, the festa’s baker: “We were all kind of out of shape at first, because we haven’t been putting on anything. It was a little bit tougher to get back into it.”
Fortunately, Amoroso said, the church’s community is, if anything, dedicated and family-oriented.
“We’ve had the same core group of people for the past however many years. The festa started here in 2006, so it’s been a long time,” Amoroso said.
Co-chairman Viscusi has been with the parish since he was born. His own family helps in the kitchen often.
“There are times where there’s clearly three generations of people working the feast, from the same family,” Viscusi said.
Viscusi’s mother and daughter were busy preparing and rolling meatballs a few weeks earlier. That day, the team produced around 4,000 meatballs, said Thompson.
Organizers estimate the fundraiser to earn around $90,000 to $100,000 for the church.
And the food is at the core of a successful festa.
Cavatelli and meatballs, pasta fagioli, minestra, sausage and peppers, calzones and chicken parmigiana sandwiches all have a place on the menu.
For dessert, baked goods and cookies galore will be available for guests. The hard work and labor in the kitchen is led by Thompson, a member of the church for 23 years. Over a span of three months, she, her family, and other volunteers have prepared almost 15 different types of cookies — enough for five freezers’ full, Thompson said.
Sfogliatelles will be served fresh out of the oven during dinner rush.
“They go like hotcakes,” Thompson said. “If you know what a sfogliatelle is, you want it fresh out of the oven. It’s crunchy on the outside and it’s got a ricotta cheese filling.”
Successful recipes are passed down throughout the years, inscribed in a cookbook for future generations to follow along.
Beer and wine will be served and a kids candy section will be available for the younger participants.
Lia Honda, which has provided over $250 for the festa and free auto detailing services, and other sponsors will donate gift cards and baskets for the auction and raffles, replacing the church’s annual garage sale.
Unlike other festas in the area, the church will run an amusement ride section in its parking lot due to the available space.
Live music will play every night. David J, an 18-year-old country singer and Rotterdam native, will start off the performing acts on Friday. The band Code Groove will take the stage Saturday night at 7 p.m. and Grand Central Station will appear, as they do every year, for Sunday’s show.
Our Lady Queen of Peace holds the final festa for the season in this area, Amoroso said.
The first festa starts off with Saint Anthony’s Church in early June for the feast of Saint Anthony. Mount Carmel is next, happening in the middle of July, and Our Lady Queen of Peace ends the season in August to commemorate the Virgin Mary’s ascent to Heaven, also known as the Feast of Assumption.
Co-chairman Amoroso assures that well over 200 people volunteer to help cook, organize and work the event.
“None of what we do gets done by individual people,” Amoroso said.
The festa is also a reunion for the several generations that grew up together over decades.
“Even people that I went to high school with, you know, they move away, living in Clifton Park or to Saratoga or wherever,” Amoroso said. “But you know, they all visit and come back knowing that the festa is still going on and they remember from when we were kids.”