A big weekend in Little Italy

The Baltimore Sun

The St. Gabriel Italian Festival has been celebrated in Little Italy for years. This weekend, the festival brings dancing in the streets, live music and tons of authentic Italian food.

"The festival is in its 70s; it's been here for a long, long time," said Jerome Elliott, assistant to the chairperson for the festival.

The festival will take place in the heart of Little Italy, in the 200 block of South Exeter St. The St. Leo Roman Catholic Church sponsors the festival.

"We've had as many as 10,000 people attend the festival in the past," Elliott said.

The festival's biggest event is the Mass held Sunday to honor St. Gabriel, Elliott said. It is held at St. Leo's, part in Italian and part in English.

Following the Mass, the statue of St. Gabriel is taken out of the church, and a processional is held through the streets of Little Italy. The processional is another way to honor St. Gabriel, and it's an Italian tradition, Elliott said.

"The processional gets people in the neighborhood involved, a band plays, and the whole thing really goes back to why we started this festival," Elliott said.

Both days of the festival will include bands playing live music. Dancing in the street and enjoying the music is a big part of the festival, Elliott said.

On Sunday, a band will play popular songs in Italian. There will also be games and activities for children and the whole family to participate in.

The food -- including calzones, fried dough, peppers and onions, pizza and meatballs -- is also very important, Elliott said.

Residents will begin preparing for the festival tomorrow night, making the sauce and some of the food, Elliott said. The whole neighborhood gets involved.

"We have Italian meals; people can sit down and enjoy as much as they want," Elliott said. "The pasta and ravioli stand makes the most money; you can get salad, bread and a nice bit of Italian food."

The main point of the festival is to honor the memory of St. Gabriel and to celebrate the Italian culture that's been in the neighborhood more than 100 years, Elliott said.

"The beauty of the festival is that on both days, we get to see people that don't live in the neighborhood anymore come back. It's good to see a lot of old friends," Elliott said.

The St. Gabriel Italian Festival will take place noon-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the 200 block of South Exeter St. Cost is free, and donations are accepted. Mass will be 9:30 a.m. Sunday in the St. Leo Roman Catholic Church. For more information, call 410-675-7275 or go to littleitalymd.com.

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