By Megan Sweeney
Nestled into Sinatra Park, Johnny Maggio pounds on a keyboard, playing “Senza Una Donna” and around him a bustling festival unfolds beneath heavy clouds. The aroma of grilled sausage, wood fire pizza, and sweet Nutella permeates the festival grounds as children shoot water guns to move gondolas along their track. It is the Italian festival, or the Feast of Madonna Dei Martiri, designed to celebrate Italian heritage and unite individuals over the power of the savory and sweet temptations the boot-shaped country has to offer.
The Italian festival is a Hoboken tradition, originating in 1927 when Hoboken was known as an Italian community. Since, it has blossomed into a demonstration of the nature of Italian living: good food, good friends, good life. Boasting carnival games and rides, the festival took up the entirety of the downtown park area, about three blocks. It was a treat to see people of all ages and backgrounds come together, celebrate Italian culture and have fun!
In the vein of food, the festival featured a wide variety of delicacies from New Jersey vendors including: David Bradley Chocolatiers in Bayonne, Vesta Wood Fired Pizza in East Rutherford, and Bella Gina’s Catering in Linden. However, in my opinion the tastiest treat of the festival was a cheesecake ice cream sandwich, courtesy of Maddalena’s Catering of Ringoes, New Jersey.
Other events of the day included several more musical performances including Jenna Esposito, Puglia, the Garden State Jazz Orchestra, and BLAME IT ON THE GIRL; a beautiful parade to celebrate the commencement of the feast, and a fireworks display at night. The festival and Hoboken itself are only a short ride on the PATH train away and present the opportunity for an exciting weekend getaway for NJIT students.