Photos: Fisherman’s Feast takes over the North End

Neighborhoods

The ‘Flight of the Angel’ tradition capped off a weekend of food, music, and parades celebrating Boston’s Italian-American community.

Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

Boston’s North End community threw its 113th annual Fisherman’s Feast this weekend, a four-day celebration of the neighborhood’s Italian roots.

This year’s Feast featured multiple processions through the streets of the North End, complete with floats, dancers, and a marching band. Local artists played traditional Italian music plus classic Italian-American hits. A meatball competition pitted Massachusetts’ best Italian restaurants against each other.

The Fisherman’s Feast was born in the 1500s in Sciacca, Sicily, where the Madonna del Soccorso, or Our Lady of Help, was said to have performed many healing miracles for the townspeople. They commissioned a marble statue of the Madonna, and in 1503, the town’s fishermen transported it by boat from Palermo back to Sciacca. Their journey culminated with a parade from the harbor to the church in town where the statue would reside. 

Whenever a crisis — like a plague or earthquake — befell Sciacca, the townspeople would carry the statue out of the church and into the town square, and pray to the Madonna. Legend has it she granted their prayers, and the townspeople began throwing a huge feast in her honor each year.

Sicilian immigrants arrived in Boston at the turn of the 20th century, and brought the tradition with them. The North End celebrated its first Fisherman’s Feast in 1910. 

Each year, members of Boston’s Fisherman’s Club open the festivities by parading their own statue of the Madonna del Soccorso through the North End to Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park, for the blessing of the fishing waters. 

Revelers carry the Statue of the Madonna though the streets of the North End on Aug. 20, 2023.

The festival culminated Sunday night with the “Flight of the Angel” when a young “angel” — decked out in golden finery and suspended by wires — “flies” down from a third-floor window to meet the statue. This year’s angel, 12-year-old Gianna Puccio, was flying in the Feast for a rare second consecutive year. She filled in this year for another girl who had to drop out, after first being granted the honor in 2022.

“I get to carry on a tradition that’s been going on for a very long time, and I get to just be myself,” Puccio told The Boston Globe.

The Boston Herald reported several reports of underage drinking. Boston police made one arrest and five court summonses for underage drinking at the Feast on Friday night, according to the Herald. The outlet reported that teens have “inundated” the festival and others like it in recent years.

Fisherman’s Feast co-chairman Danny Puccio (who is Gianna Puccio’s father) assured the Herald that young people showed up to the festival, but “they weren’t rowdy” and didn’t interrupt the celebration.

Gianna Puccio, 12, prepares to take flight as the angel at this year’s Fisherman’s Feast.
Danny Puccio leads his daughter Gianna out into the Fisherman’s Feast.
Gianna Puccio flies as the angel for the second year in a row.
Gianna Puccio floats down to meet the station of the Madonna de Soccorso.
Confetti blasts at the Fisherman’s Feast in the North End on Aug. 20, 2023. – Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe


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