One HOT Festival – St. Rocco’s!!!

Every year I think about attending the St. Rocco’s Italian Festival in Hulberton – a little town on the canal between Albion and Holley – but, every year something else seems to be going on or I just plain forget to go! This year, I agreed to go, take some photos, and talk to some people for an article for the Orleans Hub about the festival. So, I was definitely going to get to go this year!!! Then, Sunday morning came and it was shaping up to be one HOT day with some wicked humidity, to boot! If I hadn’t made a commitment to Tom, I probably would have chosen my air conditioning over being out in the hot sun on a day like that! But…..I DID make a commitment, so I went! And, you know what? I am sooooooo glad I did!!! I had a BLAST!!! The heat wasn’t THAT bad….well, yeah, it was bad…..but not enough to ruin the day for me! I stayed a couple hours and then went back a little later! It was a GREAT event!

So, let me tell you about St. Rocco’s Italian Festival…….it is definitely ITALIAN!!! hehehe It is hard to say whether the main attraction is the massive amounts of Italian food or the WNY Bocce Tournament or the people you run into! Guess, that is up to the person……for ME, it was all three!!!

First…..the people! I LOVE that I can count on running into dear old friends and newer friends just about anywhere I go! I was able to chat a while with several friends that I ran into. I wanted to take a photo of my dear friend, Debbie, giving out one treat that helped cool everyone down – the Italian Ice Cream – but, she wouldn’t let me……can’t say as I blame her, though – as pretty as she is, she still looked about as wilted from the heat as I felt!!! And…..I managed to meet and talk to some new people that I found totally delightful!!!

Then, there was the food……OMG!!! I didn’t even see all the food that was available…..there was Italian sausage piled high with onions and peppers, hot dogs, hamburgers, Italian ice cream, popcorn, and a spaghetti dinner to die for……and I heard there was some totally awesome homemade eggplant Parmesan and other amazing Italian and festival type treats! I promised myself I wouldn’t go crazy with the food, but had to give the spaghetti dinner a try when I went back later in the day…..YUM!!!

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Just look at all that food being cooked up by Sean Poprawski, Doug Heath, and Bill Austin! And the aroma coming off that grill was so incredibly amazing….I could have stood there all day long!
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I found that when you say you’re doing an article for the Hub, people like to pose for you!!!

0010_Spaghetti Dinner

For $7.50, I got this huge plate of spaghetti with two LARGE and spicy meatballs, a salad loaded with assorted veggies, a glass of refreshing lemonade, and each table had a big basket of Italian bread! Sooooo good!!! I hate that I couldn’t finish it all…..what a shame to see any portion of this go to waste!!!

0007_Waiting for Food

Just look at all the people waiting in line for some of that delicious food…..and it was early – the line grew as the day progressed!!!

The Bocce Tournament was really cool! I have seen people play bocce on TV and heard about it, but never saw it played in person. I learned from talking to Randy Bower – tournament organizer for the past 20+ years and local candidate for Orleans County Sheriff – that people come from all over the state and even from Canada to play in this annual tournament. The bocce tournament courts that are a permanent fixture on the Hulberton festival grounds are the only ones in Orleans County. Now, that is cool! And…..these guys (and a few girls) really take this game seriously! It is a time honored Italian tradition! I watched them play for quite a while…..it really takes some skill! From what I could gather by watching, a small ball is rolled out onto the court as the target ball (probably not what it is called, but you get the idea). Then, players take turns rolling their balls to see who can make their ball come to rest closest to the target ball – when all the players on both teams finish the round, the player whose ball is the closest to the target wins the points. But, then the strategy…..and fun…..comes in —- if a player has a ball pretty close to the target, a player from the opposing team can roll their ball with the intent of whacking it out of play……oh, you bugger, you…..and the next player on that team can roll more precisely to land close to the target to grab the points for the team!!! They play in elimination rounds until a winning team is declared. It was really interesting to watch and listen to the teams talk about their strategy and get all excited when someone on their team played their turn well! I hoped to go back and get photos of the winners, but I was told there was no way to tell me when to come back – all depends on how fast the rounds go – and it would likely be well into the evening hours and probably too dark to get a good photo! I hope I get to hear who won!

0004_Frank Ruggiero

This guy is Frank Ruggiero. He’s from Rochester and has been doing this tourney for about 15 years. I loved him! He looked, to me, like the quintessential bocce ball player…..and, what sealed the deal for me was his broken Italian accent! He was sweet!

0005_Cortney Quaranto Not to foster a stereotype, but the players in this tournament were predominantly men – in particular, older Italian men! So, when I saw this young girl playing, I thought “that’s different” and really wanted to include her in my photos! Then, when I talked to her, I fell in love with her story!!! This was Cortney Quaranto’s first time playing in this tournament. She told me that her father has been playing here since she was a baby and her brother usually plays with him on his team. But, her brother is in the Air Force, now, and wasn’t available to play this year, so Cortney stepped in to play on her Dad’s team! How great is that story?

0006_Louis LaPietraLouis LaPietra was also a very nice man from Rochester who has been coming here to play for about 10 years.

0008_Paul Quaranto_Randy Bower_Libby DiPardoThis is Randy Bower (center) – the tournament organizer and candidate for Orleans County Sheriff – pictured with Paul Quaranto (left), who played for Team Red and I believe is Cortney’s father, but I didn’t get a chance to confirm that (that’s Cortney walking away from us on the right), and Libby DiPardo (right), who came here from Niagara Falls, ON to play on The Gamblers team.

Basket Raffle…….I love theme basket raffles……I like to buy my strip of tickets and walk around the table sizing up the different basket choices and decide where best to place my tickets! I usually bid on baskets that I want for myself and some that I know would make great gifts to give family or friends. At the St. Joseph’s Lawn Fete a couple weeks ago, I won a basket that I walked past several times thinking it wasn’t anything I was interested in…..then, I had one ticket left and thought, “what the hell” – it was a coffee themed basket that I wouldn’t use cause I don’t drink coffee, but my brother and his wife do and it was Tim Horton’s coffee, which I also know they like – so, I popped my last ticket in that basket and I won it!!! THIS time, I used the same strategy, but I was REALLY hoping for two baskets that I would definitely keep for myself and I put multiple tickets in each one……and, guess what……I won the one I wanted MOST!!! It is called “Curl Up With a Good Book” basket and has a gorgeous handmade afghan, boxes of tea, a mug for the tea, Milano cookies (love them) to go with the tea, a candle, a book that looks like it is going to be a really good read, and a word find book! That basket couldn’t have been better for me if it was made specifically with me in mind!!! I am going to love that afghan this winter and can’t wait to start the book right after I finish the one I’m currently reading!

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Black, white, and gray……a stunning combination and looks so cozy!!!

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And….finally…..all proceeds from this festival benefits St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Holley – it is their big fundraiser each year! This year marks the 150th anniversary of St. Mary’s, so there was a booth with information about the historic milestone and several commemorative items for sale, like t-shirts, magnates, etched wine glasses, and more. I bought an etched wine glass to add to my other commemorative wine glasses.

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0009_150th Anniv Booth

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St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church on S. Main St. in Holley is a stunning example of Medina Sandstone!

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And, so…….the moral of this story? Life is too short to miss out on something wonderful just because the weather might not be exactly to your liking……get out and grab the gusto……you will rarely regret it…….and, you just might have the time of your life!!!

As for my article for The Orleans Hub…….this was the first time I’ve done an article for editor and friend, Tom Rivers. I hope he thought it was good enough to ask me to do it, again…..it was fun and I found it challenging to censor myself to write more like a reporter!!! I am not a journalist – I’m a creative writer who writes just like I think and talk…..not really the right style for the news! But, I do love to write and this was a cool change for me! Click here to read it!

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