Immigrants from Itri, Italy, who settled in Cranston’s Knightsville section in the early years of the 20th century brought the memory of a miracle.
As the story goes, in 796 A.D., a mute shepherd looked into a tree on Mount Civita in Itri and saw an image of Mary and the infant Jesus. The shepherd regained his speech, and the church later recognized the sacred event.
The tradition of honoring the “Maria Santissima della Civita” – or “Blessed Mother of Mount Civita” – also came with the Itri immigrants to their new home. In 1905, they organized the first St. Mary’s Feast in their adopted community, preserving a core piece of their cultural identity for future generations.
The decades since have seen Cranston’s feast forge its own tradition – one that will mark its 114th year from July 17-21. Tens of thousands of revelers are expected for the feast, which will feature food, music, carnival attractions, religious observances and a celebration of the Knightsville community’s heritage.
At the Knightsville Gazebo, entertainment will include a performance from Mastery Martial Arts on July 18; the band Gemini on July 19 from 6-9 p.m.; TLC Dance Studio on July 20 from 3-5 p.m.; the General Centracchio Band on July 20 from 6-9 p.m.; and music from Phenix Avenue from 4-8 p.m. on July 21.
On the Feast Society Main Stage, the entertainment schedule featured the Ambrosiani Italian-American Band from 7-10 p.m. on July 17; Sarah Barbosa from 7-10 p.m. on July 18; DJ Eddie The Fixer from 5-8 p.m. on July 19; Heavy Rescue from 9 p.m. to midnight on July 19; Domenic DePasquale from 5-8 p.m. on July 20; Mad Hatters from 9 p.m. to midnight on July 20; Classic Blend from 3-6 p.m. on July 21; and Brother to Brother from 7-11 p.m. on July 21.
Rockwell Amusements will again provide the carnival attractions for the feast.
The St. Mary’s Feast Road Race will begin at 5 p.m. on July 20. The 5.5-mile road race is marking its 47th year, while the 5K road race is celebrating its fourth year.
Registration begins at 3 p.m. Trophies will be given to the first-, second- and third-place male and female finishes, while awards will also be given to the top finishers in multiple age groups and categories.
The religious observances held as part of the feast begin with the Sacred Triduum from July 15-17. Masses begin at 7 p.m. each of those days, proceeded by novenas at 6:30 p.m.
The Rev. Stephen Battey, assistant pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Bristol, will preside over the July 15 service, followed by the Rev. Joshua Barrow, assistant pastor of Our Lady of Mercy in East Greenwich, on July 16. The Rev. Joseph Brice, assistant pastor of Saint Augustine’s Church in Providence, will preside over the July 17 service.
At outdoor Mass will be celebrated at 7 p.m. on July 19, with the Rev. James R. Collins as the main celebrant and the Rev. Eric Silva as the homilist. It will be followed by a candlelight procession as part of Patronage Feast Day.
The traditional St. Mary’s Feast procession begins at 11:30 a.m. on July 21 at St. Mary’s Church, located at 1523 Cranston St. It will be preceded by a Mass at 10 a.m. The Rev. William J. Ledoux will serve as the main celebrant and homilist.
The feast celebrations conclude with a fireworks show starting at 10 p.m. on July 21.
For more information, follow the St. Mary’s Feast Society on Facebook.