A feast of generosity

Holy Ghost Association board members Dirck Higdon, president Tricia Bergeron, James Rowell, and Jenny Pye. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Holy Ghost Association board members (from left) Dirck Higdon, president Tricia Bergeron - who is the Feast's Mordon or organizer - James Rowell, and Jenny Pye. Photos by Ralph Stewart

By Pat Waring - July 20, 2006

Festivals come and festivals go, and there seems to be a new one every week. But the annual Feast of the Holy Ghost at the Portuguese American Club in Oak Bluffs is the real thing - a homegrown mix of tradition and just plain good Island times.

The Feast, which took place last weekend, honors Queen Isabella of Portugal. On Sunday volunteers ladled out hundreds of bowls of free sopa for all to commemorate her generosity in feeding her people. A high point is the Sunday morning parade featuring traditional music, dancers, and a march through town before the ceremonial blessing of the crown carried by one young girl chosen from among a group of those making their First Communion.

The big party got underway Saturday evening with chicken, hot dogs, and burgers sizzling on the grills and a tasty array of Portuguese specialties on the menu - spicy pulled pork, fava beans, the hearty meat and vegetable sopa. Everyone has to savor at least one sugary fried dough, donated every year by club members who use tried and true recipes.

The Rev. Fred LaPiana blesses the crown worn by Kaitlyn Marchand. Amber Cappelli is at center. Photo by Ralph Stewart
The Rev. Fred LaPiana blesses the crown worn by Kaitlyn Marchand (right). Amber Cappelli is at center.

The decibel level is high, as music and conversation fill the air and playing children shout and laugh. Auctioneer David Araujo's voice can be heard throughout the weekend over the loudspeaker as he urges guests to bid ever higher on a mountain of donated goods and services, with proceeds going to the club's scholarship fund and other Island charities.

Out back, youngsters compete for colorful prizes at the game booths while Islanders of all ages relax and dine under the big tent or stroll the spacious grounds, enjoying cold beverages, chatting with friends and neighbors, taking an easy-going break in the middle of their busy summer.

The Feast is a true labor of love, with dozens of volunteers working for weeks ahead to prepare and more time afterwards to clean up. Many spend the weekend behind counters and in booths, at the stove or grill, hardly taking a moment to relax. The Feast is a gift to the Island in every way, from the funds raised for neighbors in need, to the gracious open invitation to a big, happy party where all can feel welcome. Truly carrying on in the spirit of the generous Queen Isabella, the Holy Ghost Association deserves a warm thank-you from a grateful community.