Those who attended the 122nd Annual Maria Santissima Lauretana Party in Niles enjoyed Italian beef, pizza, pasta, cannoli and ice cream and heard Tony Spavone, the Chicago Rat Pack and many more musical attractions.
But for many, the heart of the holiday has its roots in a religious belief dating back 400 years to a small town along the northern coast of Sicily, an island off mainland Italy.
This was evident in the many Catholics marching to the festival shrine tent to pray, sometimes serenaded by the Sicilian group from Chicago, to the Blessed Mother, represented by a painting of her with the infant Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi . Catholics consider the image holy.
Faith mixes with fun in a traditional show called Flight of the Angels. This year, two first cousins who portrayed angels as young girls got to see their two daughters portray angels and “fly” on a structure suspended above the crowd.
This year’s festival, which drew between 5,000 and 6,000 people, according to organizers, took place just south of the Golf Mill shopping centre.
Angelo Camarda of Elmwood Park serves as festival president for the Maria Santissima Lauretana Society of Altavilla Milicia in Chicago, which hosts the Maria Santissima Lauretana party.
“Our tradition here is basically geared towards our devotion to the Blessed Mother,” Camarda said. “She is our patron saint of our hometown.
“We have been carrying on our tradition for more than 122 years here in Chicago, 400 years in Italy. Basically, everything is in honor of the Blessed Mother.
Camarda’s nephew, Salvatore Camarda of Chicago, serves as co-chair of the festival.
Salvatore Camarda manned the food vendor booth for the family business, Joseph’s Finest Meats of Chicago, which cooked a minimum of 1,500 Italian sausages and about 600 pounds of Italian beef for the duration of the festival, he said. declared.
“Some of the things we’re trying to focus on here are trying to keep the authenticity part…everything down to the music, the food, something that we kind of try to keep as authentic as possible,” said Salvatore Camarda.
In 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Niles Festival did not take place, but the Camardas said their band’s chapel in Chicago remained open for prayer.
Tradition recognizes the Catholic history of a painting of the Virgin Mary, an image believed to have washed up hundreds of years ago on the Sicilian coast near the village of Altavilla Milicia.
The religious artifact inspired the construction of a church and sanctuary in Altavilla Milicia.
In Niles, people prayed before the image of Maria Santissima Lauretana, a painting on an easel among flowers and candles in a shrine tent.
People were also praying next to a heavy decorative platform with an image of the Blessed Virgin. The wooden structure took a few dozen men to transport it halfway to the Flight of the Angels location on Sunday.
It was the first year that brothers Roberto Nuccio, 21, and Paolo Nuccio, 23, from Norridge, carried the shrine. Both siblings graduated from Ridgewood High School, they said.
Carrying the shrine was “heavy,” Roberto said with a laugh, and “much harder” than he had anticipated.
The Nuccio siblings were among the men tasked with transforming the shrine so that two little girls dressed as angels, dressed in pastel pink or blue, could “fly” above the crown of the shrine, hanging from wires.
There was twice the Flight of the Angels. The first flight took place around 6 p.m. immediately after a procession of the Holy Mother halfway.
The second flight featured Adeline Waitr, 9, a fourth year student from Mundelein (in blue) and Amelia Oberbroekling, 8, a third year student from Palatine (in pink).
In the first flight were second cousins, in pink dresses, Lillianna Hethcoat, 7, a second-grader from Hanover Park and in blue dresses, Giuliana Bucaro, 8, a third-grader by Bartlett.
Their mothers, first cousins, wore the same colors as their daughters when they participated, as children in 1994, in the Flight of Angels.
Lillianna’s mother is Marianne Hethcoat and Giuliana’s mother is Lia Bucaro.
“I’m so proud. It’s an honor,” Lia Bucaro said with a smile, indicating that watching Giuliana participate like an angel was moving.
“We did (the flight) together when we were younger,” she said, referring to Marianne Hethcoat. “We’re first cousins, and now first cousins do it together, so it’s pretty amazing.”
Lia Bucaro has two sisters and three nieces who have been angels.
“It’s super exciting to be able to pass on and continue the tradition,” said Marianne Hethcoat.
Hethcoat said Lillianna was not concerned about the impending flight on Sunday – only a little nervous about climbing the ladder to the flight deck, her mother’s cousin said.
Lia Bucaro added that it has been “truly an honor to have our daughters on the ropes, just like my cousin and I were.
“The devotion our family has to the Blessed Mother goes back many generations and will now be passed on to our families and hopefully their children one day.”