Feast features traditions for all ages
Last weekend the Portuguese American Club in Oak Bluffs was alive with the sounds of upbeat music; aromas of spicy sopa, marinated pork, and crisp fried dough; a crowd of happy revelers; and David Araujo's familiar voice coaxing bids for gargantuan lobsters and big rounds of Portuguese Sweet Bread. It was the Feast of the Holy Ghost, the traditional event that Islanders look forward to all year.
The noisy Saturday festivities and the mellow Sunday program with its parade, blessing of the crown, colorful folk dancers, and sopa free for everyone in honor of Queen Isabella of Portugal are all favorite parts of the two-day feast that began in 1941, soon after the Oak Bluffs clubhouse was built.
Tricia Bergeron, Madron or organizer of the feast and club president, said that the event is a true team effort. "There are a lot of volunteers and I can't thank them enough for what they do," she said. "There are dedicated ones who do it every year. It's all of us who do it, not just me."
A spirited affair where adult Islanders can put their work and worries aside for two carefree days, the event is a magical fun-fest for children too. Grown-ups head to the food tents, raffle tables, or to the bar for a cold beer to enjoy on the warm evening, or just sit under the big tent to socialize and watch. But kids make a beeline for the game booths where they know the real fun and excitement are.
"Everyone goes away a winner!" promised Ray Blanchette, a game volunteer. "All the kids walk away happy with a smile on their face."
This year the games were in a new location, under a tent behind the main festival. Volunteers could hear sounds of music and auction bidding while keeping young patrons busy.
"The guys who built the booths busted their chops big time," said a grateful Linda Wood who has organized the games for the past three years. "They did that all in two days."
"Are you going to try?" Arthur Ferro gently encouraged a little girl in a plaid dress and sparkly flip-flops, as she accepted three darts and tried to hit the elusive little gold crown that was surrounded by silver ones on the board. "You win an alien paddle ball!" he announced as she went off with her prize.
"Here come the pros, they want the skateboard," Mr. Ferro laughed as two older boys approached. He laughed that the only two skateboards he'd given away so far were both to girls who hit the small gold crown when their boyfriends missed.
Next door, volunteers cheered the kids tossing small balls onto a table painted with colored circles to win tiny trinkets and grander prizes. Inflatables from lobsters to swords, King Kongs to red racecars, hung in a tantalizing display, captivating even the youngest children. Rubber ducklings bobbed happily in water at the third booth. Youngsters plucked them out to discover their prize. Elissa Decosta and Amber Willoughby, both 10, just opted for dunking their hands in the water.
"Whoops, it's a ducky jam up!" laughed Mike Delis, a club board member.
In his Ellsbury Red Sox shirt, nine-year old Anthony Cimeno had won an inflatable sofa but was determined to add a blown-up lobster to his haul. Ms. Wood orders early from off-Island carny suppliers so there will be enough bubbles, poppers, noisemakers, goofy hats, hula hoops and Mardi Gras beads for all.
Kaylee Tebo, nine, was throwing darts, determined to win a lava lamp. Ten-year-old Tabitha Oliver admitted she had "no clue" how many times she had played the dart game, her favorite.
On Sunday afternoon, youngsters including Katy Smith, 13, and William MacDonald got to help behind the counters, handing out prizes to lucky contestants. According to Ms. Bergeron, working at the game booths is a coveted job for young feastgoers.
"The kids do a great job," said club member Melinda Sylvia, who has volunteered at the games for many years. "It's for the kids and I love it. I like seeing the kids all excited when they win a prize."