Seward Place in Schenectady will be filled with Italian food, live music, laughter and dancing this weekend as thousands gather for the annual St. Anthony’s Church Festa, one of the largest and most beloved street festivals in the area.
The Festa, which pays tribute to the parish patron saint, will run from today to Sunday and is open to the public free of charge.
Preparation — especially the food — for this year’s Festa is well under way, said Frank Ranucci, St. Anthony’s office manager and chairman of this year’s festival.
“We have a great selection of traditional Italian foods,” Ranucci said. “Sister Maria Rosa is our lead person for food preparation. She has a workforce of about 25 volunteers.”
This year’s menu includes a variety of homemade Italian dishes such as sausage and peppers, calamari, antipasto, trippa and eggplant, among other things. A full Italian bakery booth at the event will have nearly every favorite Italian dessert, including cannoli, biscotti, guanti, sfogliatelle and zeppoles. St. Anthony’s Festa has some of the best and most authentic Italian food in the area, Ranucci brags.
In addition to Italian food, the Festa will include several Spanish dishes. St. Anthony’s merged with a Spanish congregation a few years ago. This will be the third year they will also be offering Spanish dishes such as empanadas and arroz gandules.
“And it is very good — I can attest to that,” Ranucci said. “The empanadas are a big hit.”
St. Anthony’s Catholic Church was built in the early 1900s and the Festa has been held ever since, according to Ranucci. Many of the Italian recipes featured at the event have been passed down from generation to generation.
“These ladies have been a part of the celebration of the feast of St. Anthony for decades,” he said. “It is like second and third generation here.”
Live entertainment this year will be provided every night, opening with Grand Central Station today. On Saturday, the band Harmony will perform, and on Sunday a local favorite, Benny Cannavo & The Accents, will play.
Games, pony rides and balloon sculptures will be a part of the Festa family activities this year.
“It is a great family environment,” Ranucci said. “We concentrate on food and family type activities.”
Mass on Sunday will be held at noon in English, Spanish and Italian — “because those are the three languages that represent St. Anthony’s Church,” Ranucci explained.
Mass will be followed by a grand procession where the congregation will carry the statue of St. Anthony around the block.
The Festa begins tonight at 5 p.m. and will continue until 11 p.m. On Saturday it will run from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., and on Sunday it will go from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Free parking is available at Golub Corporation on the corner of Maxon Road and Nott Street. St. Anthony’s Church is at 311 Seward Place.
Ranucci said that this year they are expecting a couple of thousand people each night. They encourage people to come out and enjoy the festival and to bring along their family and friends.
“It is a great effort by members of our church,” Ranucci said. “We celebrate our faith, our culture and our foods.”