Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the St. Rocco Parish festival took on a different look and feel during Labor Day weekend.
“It would have been imprudent and irresponsible to hold and sponsor our traditional festival,” said Father James Mayer, St. Rocco’s pastor. Yet, with the encouragement and creativity of parishioners, the idea of a festival drive-thru was developed.
The event took place 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 4-7 and all the festival favorite foods were offered including sausage sandwiches, meatballs, pasta dinners and zeppoli.
After 10 a.m. Mass on Sept. 6, a procession honoring St. Rocco took place on the parish grounds.
St. Rocco, the parish patron saint, is venerated in the Church as the protector against the plague and all contagious diseases.
Locally, the feast of St. Rocco, which is celebrated the first weekend of September, predates the 1922 establishment of the parish. In fact, a festival was started in 1914 by Italian immigrants from the Bari province. It was a street fair centered on food, with neighbors sharing their favorite dishes.
In 1924, Father Gattuso turned the street party into a fundraiser for the parish in order to build a school. The festival changed and adapted over the years, but the celebration and the purpose remain the same.
Overall, this year’s drive-thru festival was described as a positive experience for patrons and volunteers. Parish staff worked closely with Cleveland police who managed and directed traffic. The ordering process went smoothly and those who came to the drive-thru event said they were grateful to be able to still enjoy their favorite homemade Italian festival foods.
“Never underestimate the inspiration of God to be creative,” said Father Mayer when asked about his thoughts about the drive-thru festival.