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Joseph and Rose
Agnoli, in 1949.>
Carol and Louie
Agnoli have carried on the family tradition.>
The Agnoli family,
from left, Michael, dad Louie, mom Carol, Jenna, Joseph and
Friends and family
gathered at the Agnoli house (and pool).>
Mary is our family's patron saint. A million years ago, when my
dad's family settled in Knightsville, long before there was a St Mary's
Church, the statue of Madonna della Civita was housed in my grandparents
living room. Day and night, people from the community would come to
their home to worship her. This lasted a few years until a chapel was
build across the street from the house.
Every year on St Mary's Day (technically July 21st), there is a
procession that starts at St Mary's Church on Cranston Street. This is
where The Madonna della Civita now lives. It winds it's way through the
village and goes to the Chapel (which is now someone's house, so doesn't
go inside any longer). Then back to the church. This is a big, big, big
deal feast as many people are still from the hamlet of Itri, Italy where
the miracle of the Madonna supposedly occurred. On the feast day, the
neighborhood was filled with family and friends as if it were
Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter and overflowed backyards or basements
if the weather were inclement. There are big function tents in most
Years ago, when I was very young (long, long time ago), I remember that
my father and uncles use to close their business every July 21st (they
considered it a holiday), regardless of the day it fell on. Sunday,
Wednesday, Friday, etc... it didn't matter if it was the busiest work
day of the week, the store was closed every July 21st. Now it is
celebrated on whatever Sunday is closest to the 21st. Just not the same.
Our family home has long been sold to a non family member and we no
longer gather there. I do have a cousin who still invites all who cares
to go for the day. We don't, but we do try to get down to the feast site
for our annual doughboy and sausage and pepper sandwich fix. The
spectacular fireworks display signaling the end of the feast. It
had often been said that St. Mary's always had the best!"
From Italy to Knightsville:
A family tradition turns 65
Agnoli family celebrates St. Mary's Feast that crosses generations and
By Tracee M. Herbaugh
Providence Journal Staff Writer Posted Jul. 14, 2015 @ 11:15 pm
CRANSTON, R.I. On Sunday, at a red brick cape-style house in the
Knightsville neighborhood, the Agnoli family will celebrate its 65th St.
Mary's Feast under the same roof.
Their Kingswood Avenue home has seen four generations of Agnolis who
participated in the celebration.
The house belonged to Louie Agnolis' parents. Then, Carol and Louie
Agnoli, who have been married for 38 years and have been together since
they were high school sweethearts, raised their children there. Now, the
couple hosts their three sons, daughter-in-law, granddaughter and some
100 other friends and extended family for the celebration they call
"Christmas in July."
"I'd come over to this
house for St. Mary's when I was a kid 16 or so," Carol said,
adding she moved in when she and Louie got married in 1977.
"Now we have our children and our granddaughter over for St.
Mary's," she said. "You never know how many people will show
up because we don't hand out invitations. We tell our friends and family
who tell their friends and family. And everybody just shows up."
The Festa di Maria Della Civita, or St. Mary's Feast, originated in the
Italian village of Itri. Many residents in Knightsville have ties to the
Italian village, including Louie's grandfather who emigrated from Italy.
It opens Wednesday and will continue through Sunday. The event draws
thousands of people to the neighborhood for the evening carnivals,
parties and the feast on Sunday. This week Knightsville will be filled
with red, green and white flags.
On Sunday, a procession will begin from St. Mary Church, as a statue of
the Madonna will be hoisted on shoulders and carried around town. After
the procession, people will celebrate with backyard parties and watching
When explaining the importance of the St. Mary's Feast, Louie recalls a
story about his father, Joseph Agnoli.
In 1971, Joseph was ill with an advanced stage of cancer. His friend Red
Notarianni, who sat with Joseph on the feast's planning committee,
marched a band over to the Kingswood Avenue home. Joseph was too sick to
leave the house, but he managed to muster enough energy to walk to the
picture window and listen to Red and the band play two songs.
"I looked at my father afterwards, and he had tears in his
eyes," Louie said. "I went outside to shake Red's hand, and he
had tears in his eyes, too."
The Agnolis start preparing for the party almost a month ahead of time.
Carol begins by making a list and delegating who will bring specific
foods and beverages. In the weeks ahead of the feast, their house is
filled with paper goods, such as plates, cups, napkins and other picnic
"I really have this down to a science because I've been doing it
for so long," Carol said.
She outsources as much of the prep work as possible. A rental company
brings tables and chairs, and they're set up and broken down at the end
of the night. A catering company is called for hamburgers. Family
members and friends are called upon to bring potato salad, Italian
desserts, baked beans and hot dogs enough for more than 100 people.
The only task that is left is making more than 200 meatballs, something
Carol starts on Friday night.
"It's really a matter of piecing everything together," Carol
Beyond the food, fireworks and revelry, St. Mary's Feast is about
spending time with family.
"Its all about family and friends and tradition," said
Steve Agnoli, Carol and Louie's son who is now a member of the feast's
"I'm sure my grandparents would be proud that we've kept the
tradition going," Steve said. "They always taught us that
family is very important."
(Click on each link.)
Civic, Military & Fireman's Parade Jul 4
Chamber Seafood Festival
Theatre Shakespeare Festival
del Sancocho, Providence
- An International Performance Festival
Days - First Thursday in May
International Beer Competition & Festival,
JVC Jazz Festival, Newport
Art Festival, Narragansett
Great Chowder Cook-Off
International Film Festival, Newport
Folk Festival, Newport
Jazz Festival, Newport
Music Festival, Newport
Vintage Dance Week, Newport
Waterfront Irish Festival, Newport
Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish Festival, Woonsocket
Valley Parade of Lights, Pawtuxet
Island International Film Festival
Island Scottish Highland Festival
& Roots, Labor Day weekend, Charlestown
Music Festival, Newport
of Rhode Island, Newport
West Warwick Parade
of Lights, West Warwick
churches there are local organizations that have religious feasts as
well. In Smithfield the Portuguese-American Club has The Feast of the
Holy Ghost. It is usually held in August, Friday, Saturday & Sunday.
I'm not sure of the date but you can add it to your list.
Seeing your lists of feasts made me think of my next door neighbor. His
Father belonged to the Knights of Columbus, which leads to this
childhood memory. One afternoon my friends and I were sitting around a
picnic table in their back yard, the younger Brother of one of the kids
wouldn't leave us alone. We finally shooed him away, and we mistakenly
thought that was the end of the problem. Suddenly.....There was a loud.
"WHACK!!!!!"The little Brother came back ,wearing his Father's
K. of C. plumed hat, cape and most importantly a rather large K. of C.
ceremonial sword. With which he brought down in the middle of the table
that we were sitting around. Every one jumped up and headed for the
safety of a nearby apple tree. Being the short fat kid, the only way I
was going to get into that tree would be if the tree bent over and
picked me up itself!!!!!That left me to circle my neighbor's house, with
this pissed-off, pint -sized Zorro in hot pursuit!!! I made it to my
house in one piece. He went home satisfied that he showed us big kids
that he wasn't going to be chased away. If his
Father had come home and caught him there would have been Hell to pay! I
can only imagine his Father's confusion as to where the grass stains and
dirt had gotten on the inside of his cape. Being a little kid, 3/4's of
the cape was dragging on the ground as he chased us around. This was
something right out of a Little Rascals movie. You can't make this stuff