st. peter’s fiesta

A little bit about Gloucester …

First off, it’s pronounced GLAH-stah (and not GLAW-ches-ter or anything similarly ridiculous). Second, the city’s claims to fame are all closely linked to the sea. Gloucester is known as:

  • America’s oldest seaport
  • The home of the Gorton’s fisherman
  • The home base of the ship and crew of the Andrea Gail, lost in the Perfect Storm.

For residents of Gloucester, MA, the most important festival of the year occurs in late June: St. Peter’s Fiesta, honoring the patron saint of fishermen.

If you want to spend some peaceful time strolling along the Boulevard overlooking the harbor or contemplating the city’s rich history or surrounding natural beauty, then don’t go during fiesta.

Events include religious activities, such as a procession, Mass, and the blessing of the boats. To lighten up the mood, there is also a whole lot of craziness.

Starting with one of the craziest things ever imagined, you can’t make it through fiesta without witnessing the Greasy Pole Contest off Pavilion Beach in the harbor.

All year long, the wooden platform in the harbor just off the beach stands there menacing with an attached telephone pole hanging out parallel to the water below. This is not just any pole, but the infamous Greasy Pole.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings during fiesta, hundreds of locals and tourists line the Boulevard, the beach, and the side streets to catch a glimpse of the contest. From a distance, you can see the thick coat of grease slathered over the top of the pole.

Boatloads of eager young men are ferried over to the platform, where they crowd for a space while waiting their turn to try and capture the flag at the end of the pole. Once the contest begins, cheers and cries erupt from the crowd, as some of the contestants run, slide, or crash various body parts into the pole on their way down to the water below.

If that isn’t exciting enough, there is also the thrill of watching the Seine boat races or riding on any of the various amusement part rides.

As for food, you can find just about the best festival food anywhere here. Everything smells soooo good, from the chocolate-covered fried dough to the sausage and peppers to the chicken parm. And once you’re clogged up with enough grease, they have delicious slushies in really great flavors like watermelon, mmm.

It’s definitely a must-see if you happen to be up in Gloucester in June, but don’t worry, the craziness is still there the rest of the year too. Just remember the famous line from The Perfect Storm: “They’re always from Gloucester …”

Yep, they sure are.

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