PORTLAND---Four-year-old Shelby Clark observed as her great-grandmother, Antoinette, demonstrated how to roll the ball of dough into the shape of a cookie for the trip to the oven.
“We start them young!” said Antoinette.
The dough’s journey continued to the kitchen, where Sam Marcisso, a longtime volunteer, placed a platter of soon to be cookies into the oven while his “assistant” Becky Mitchell looked on.
“Sam is my boss!” said Mitchell with a smile.
Similar scenes played out all around the hall at St. Peter Parish in Portland on Wednesday, August 9, as over 60 volunteers, ages 4 to over 90, gathered together to bake, decorate, and package over 7,000 Italian cookies (additional pictures below) for the 92nd annual St. Peter’s Italian Bazaar set for August 11-13 on Federal Street.
From the mixing station to putting the finishing touches on a newly baked cookie, the hall was filled with generations of parishioners and community members who have grown up attending the bazaar and are filled with joy to be a part of passing along one of its most revered traditions.
“It’s a lot of work. Just like doing meatballs. Same thing,” said Linda Reali, as she displayed her proven technique of scooping the perfect cookie size from the dough.
Nicola Libby, a 20-year-old who has been helping to prepare the cookies as “long as she can remember,” has quickly assumed a leadership role in the process. Nicola keeps count of the cookies while helping with the packaging at the same time. She is honored to be a part of the cookie bake and the special community of faith at St. Peter.
“I was baptized here. I had my first communion here,” said Nicola as she carefully inserted a batch of cookies into a plastic bag. “My mom told me I’m in trouble if I don’t get married here.”
To see the younger generation embracing the traditions of the bazaar warms the hearts of those who have experienced it from when they were children to present day as they happily watch their grandchildren and great-grandchildren take part.
“It’s a way to give back and help our parish stay strong,” said Nancy Taliento-Goodwin, a parishioner at St. Peter Church for over 60 years. “We now have multiple generations working on the cookie bake. It’s a way to have the younger generations start to volunteer.”
“We are blessed to have the help and support of the younger people who enjoy participating and working at the festival with the older generation serving as role models and mentors,” said Ellie Fields-Cooper, coordinator of the cookie bake. “We are so blessed for our community.”
“I walk onto the street when the festival flags and lights are up and I get excited, still, after 45 years for the bazaar,” said Mitchell, who grew up nearby and now lives in Scarborough. “It’s my favorite weekend of the summer.”
Sharing experiences, moments, and love with family and friends evokes a twinge in the hearts of all involved.
“This is fun!” said Shelby.
The bazaar is held in mid-August each year to commemorate the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Feast of Saint Rocco. As part of the festival, Bishop Robert P. Deeley will celebrate a special Mass at St. Peter Parish, on Saturday, August 12, at 4 p.m. The Mass will include hymns in both Italian and English and be followed by a procession in which the statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Rocco will be carried into the street. Handmade Italian food and pastries, carnival games for the children, booths, and live music highlight the schedule all weekend, with special events planned each day. For more information about the bazaar, including updates throughout the weekend, visit the event’s Facebook page.