Holy Ghost feast draws near

Pedro M. Amaral With less than three weeks to go, the Great New England Holy Ghost Feast Committee is putting the final touches on the program for the 17th annual feast, Aug. 22-26.
Committee President Manuel Costa said this year's celebration will include greater participation from the Azores, including a fireworks display on Saturday night sponsored by Vila Franca do Campo and Ponta Delgada, Azores.
Starting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, at the Cultural Center, 205 S. Main St., Fall River, there will be a special presentation by Antonio Goulart, a leading researcher and coordinator for a California Holy Ghost book project.
According to Maria de Lourdes Serpa, a Lesley University professor, the project is the best portrait of the Holy Ghost feasts in America. The presentation will be followed by a brief concert by the orchestra ligeira of Ponta Delgada Azores.
"One of our goals is to expand the feast by allowing it to grow naturally, without disrupting its original theme," Mr. Costa said. "The Holy Ghost Feast is a people's affair, and as such, it should be fun for those who attend it, and those who participate in it. At the same time, it should retain its religious overtones."
Mr. Costa said that other than the customary youth night on Thursday, the program includes an orchestra sent by Ponta Delgada and scheduled to perform at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
"We will have a special participation of the municipalities of Ponta Delgada, Vila Franca and Angra do Heroismo, Azores, with an exhibits pavilion centered on some of their industrial and economic activities. There will be a photo exhibit featuring old and new aspects of Ponta Delgada, and the artisans will be crafting their wares, live for the public to see."
He said one of the highlights for Friday and Sunday night would be the duo Tia Maria do Nordeste, a satirical comedy group poking fun at the political and economic situation in the Azores, Portugal and Europe.
"We also have scheduled for Friday the Velhas da Terceira, another comedy, but this time set to the sound of music, with singers Elizeu and Joao Angelo.
"There are three philharmonic bands coming from the Azores, and performing in concerts during the weekend. Sociedade Filarmonica Harmonia Furnense, of Furnas, and Sociedade Filarmonica Estrela do Norte, of Feanis da Ajuda will perform on Friday night. Filarmonica Lira do Sul, of Ponta Garça will entertain on Sunday night."
Mr. Costa said Saturday would be a big day, staring with the ethnographic parade at 11:30 a.m., from Ponta Delgada Boulevard, through Columbia Street, onto John F. Kennedy Park.
"The parade is always a big attraction for young people. They like to see the traditional costumes, the ox-drawn carts, the folklore dances and musical instruments," Mr. Costa said. "Of course, when the parade ends at the park, we have thousands of people waiting for a slice of sweet bread and a cup of cold milk.
"All during this time, it is wonderful to witness people recognizing old friends and neighbors they have not seen in years. It is such a nostalgic time, with the folklore groups sounding in the background, and in the foreground we have waves and smiles, hugs, and tears of joy. That is what the feast is about: the joy of people being together. Some of these people travel long distances hoping to find lost friends and forgotten relatives, and when they meet again it is such an indescribable feeling."
Mr. Costa said Saturday will continue with concerts and will close with local entertainer Marc Dennis following the fireworks show at 9:30 p.m.
He said Sunday is mostly a solemn day, with Mass at St. Anne's Church, at noon celebrated by Bishops Tomas Silva Nunes of Lisbon, Robert E. Mulvee of Providence and Sean P. O'Malley of Fall River. He said the traditional procession, with 23 bands and all the Holy Ghosts representations from New England, Newark, N.J., and Toronto and Montreal, Canada, will start at 2 p.m.
During the procession there will be several honored guests, including Carlos Cesar, president of the Azorean government; Berta Cabral, mayor of Ponta Delgada; Sergio Avila, mayor of Angra do Heroismo; Rui Carvalho e Melo, Mayor of Vila Franca do Campo; Alzira Serpa Silva, director of the Azorean communities; Horacio da Silva Roque, president of Banks Banif and Comercial dos Acores; Joao Machado dos Santos, Director of Banco Comercial dos Acores, and Conceicao (Connie) Chaves, a Fall River businesswoman who represents the local Luso-American community.
"During all this time we will have some auctions, bazaars, raffles and many other attractions. Of course, every day will be a good day to sample the traditional foods prepared and served at the park by our dedicated volunteers," Mr. Costa said. "Don't forget to visit our Web site at www.grandesfestas.com for the complete program and some other interesting tidbits about the largest Portuguese feast on this side of the Atlantic."
This year's feast ends with a banquet at White's of Westport on Monday night.

Pedro Amaral can be reached at 123 Ames St., Fall River, MA 02721, or at Lusolife@apol.net

This story appeared on Page A5 of The Standard-Times on August 4, 2002.

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