The annual Mount Carmel parade and celebration draws former residents back to town.
By KATIE-NELL SCANLON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
LOWELLVILLE -- Pietro Pirone was the first Italian immigrant to settle in this small village. He was eager to share the traditions of his homeland when he arrived in 1890.
One such tradition stems back to 14th century Naples, when a group of monks fled the original Mount Carmel in Palestine to escape persecution by the Turks. They carried with them an image of the Virgin Mary that came to be known as Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Pirone helped establish the Mount Carmel Society, which on July 16, 1895, held the first feast day and mass in honor of the historical event.
The seeds he planted are growing strong 107 years later.
"This is a pinnacle event for the citizens of Lowellville each and every year," said Michael Piccirillo, president of the Mount Carmel Society Men's Club. "People that moved away come back to the village and celebrate."
The parade begins at Mount Carmel Society Hall, with band music, school children and enthusiastic citizens. Leading the people is a statue of Mary, which the early monks considered to be a miraculous image in their journey from persecution.
"It's more like a Thanksgiving," said the Rev. Gerald DeLucia, who has served as pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church for the last nine years. "We're celebrating the fact that times were hard but we got here."
Following the parade is high Mass, which is conducted at the church in both Italian and English.
"In the old days, they would bring in an Italian priest for this one day to say the mass in Italian, to remind people of the immigrants that settled here and had not yet learned to speak English," the Rev. Mr. DeLucia said. Today, however, Mr. DeLucia himself gives the homily in both languages.
Co-celebrators Father Philip Rogers, pastor of St. Nicholas in Struthers; Father Pat Ferraro, of Streetsboro; and Deacon Dr. Robert Cuttica joined Mr. DeLucia on Tuesday afternoon.
Although the importance of the event lies in the miraculous powers of the Virgin Mary before a group of monks, DeLucia said the feast day has even greater meaning this year, considering the events of Sept. 11.
"We have to remember what our immigrant ancestors focused on during rough times," Mr. DeLucia explained. "That life is beautiful."
The parade continues after mass through the south side Lowellville neighborhoods, where participants pin money to the banners as a sign of thanks, and residents prepare food.
Julia Zinger, 86, of Lowellville remembers when she was a child and marched in the parade with her friends.
"I've lived here for 65 years, and I never missed one," she said grinning at the sight of the children.
Ann Carchedi and Ann Selner of Lowellville said the spirit of the feast is still strong within the community.
"It changes a bit every year," 82-year-old Carchedi said. "But we're lucky to have it."
Food, games, rides and contests continue through Saturday, when the celebration concludes with a giant fireworks display.
The "Baby Doll Dance" takes place Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and features a 20-foot tall papier-m & acirc;ch & eacute; creation orchestrated to music and festooned with fireworks. The figure is shaped like a witch, and as the fireworks go off it is partially destroyed.
"The significance of the baby doll dance is to drive out the bad luck and hope for better fortune in the future," Piccirillo explained.
Carmelann Alfano Maszczak, 38, said she wants to see her two children carry on the tradition that has been a part of her all her life. "Everyone comes to the parade," Maszczak said. "No matter what they have to do, they plan on being here for this day."