Holy Ghost festival food and fun this weekend

Attendees of the festival in the 1930's stood for a photo. Girls in the front row wore their hair in ringlets and dressed in white Communion dresses. — Photo courtesy of MV Holy Ghost Association

This weekend, The Holy Ghost Association of Martha’s Vineyard, commonly referred to to as the Portuguese-American Club (P-A Club), will paint Oak Bluffs red…and green.

The annual Festival of the Holy Ghost will begin at 5 pm, Saturday, July 21 at the P-A Club on Vineyard Avenue in Oak Bluffs. The festivities will include enough sweet bread and sopa to feed the Island, live music, dance performances, and games. The celebration continues with a Sunday parade.

The concept for the festival dates back to Queen Isabel of Aragon, who lived from 1271 to 1336, and was known for her generosity.

During a time of famine, the Queen offered her crown to the Holy Spirit in return for a miracle. Upon leaving the church, it is said the Queen saw ships in the harbor filled with crops.

The festival was brought to the Island by residents of Portuguese heritage in the early 1900s. In 1882, Manuel S. deBettencourt moved to the Vineyard from Graciosa, one of the nine Azores islands, part of Portugal. With him, Mr. deBettencourt brought a silver crown.

That crown is still the symbol of the queen’s charity, and a focal point of the annual festival. Every year, the club chooses a young girl from Our Lady Star of the Sea’s first communion class to carry the crown in the Sunday parade.

“It is a huge honor to be picked to represent the queen,” President of the P-A Club Patricia Bergeron said. This year, Taybor Estrella will carry it.

For as long as she can remember, Ruth Metell of Oak Bluffs has attended the annual celebrations. “I’ve been a member of the P-A club since I was 18, and I’ve been attending the festival for longer than I like to admit,” Ms. Metell said.

As a girl, Ms. Metell was chosen to carry the crown. “It was such an honor, and so exciting,” she said. “I still remember it.”

This year, Ms. Metell was recognized at the 28th Annual Heritage Day of Portugal celebration at the State House. Heritage Day recognizes members of the Portuguese American Community who are role models and outstanding contributors to their local communities. She was given an award by Rep. Tim Madden at the ceremony.

“I will be wearing the medallion in the parade, riding in an old-fashioned car,” she said. Ms. Metell invited Rep. Madden to the parade to ride alongside her.

The parade will begin at the SSA wharf in Oak Bluffs, travel up Circuit Avenue to Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic church, where Ms. Estrella will be crowned. From there the parade heads for the cemetery, where a wreath will be laid in honor of club members who have died. The final stop is at the P-A Clubhouse, on Vineyard Avenue in Oak Bluffs, where the feast will be continued.

Ms. Bergeron has organized the festival for 23 years and expects thousands to come to the Island for the festival. “There will be great food, music and fun,” she said. “Why wouldn’t you want to come?”

For more information, call 508-693-9875.