A beloved tradition with roots back to the early 1900s returns to South Philadelphia this weekend. The Annual St. Nicholas of Tolentine Authentic Italian Festival will bring out thousands of people on October 1 to the 1700 Block of South 9th Street.
One of the largest authentic Italian festivals of the year is back after the pandemic and will start with the annual religious procession throughout the neighborhood with a long line of the Statues of Saints and their faithful following. This year, the St. Nicholas of Tolentine Italian Festival will host a special ceremony to honor the late Bobby Rydell, Charlie Gracie, and Jerry Blavat, who were all lost over a 9 month period last year.
Food vendors will include The Kitchen Consigliere, Marra’s Pizza, Esposito Porchetta, Termini Bros Bakery, Del Buono Bakery and others. Entertainment will include The East Passyunk Opera Project, Nick Desiderio, The Vivaci Dancers, That’s Amore: The Great Italian-American Songbook, Quaker City String Band, City Rhythm “Love Train Dance Party,” Lights Out and DJ Spanky Brown. Family and fun for the kids will include rides, face painting, games, sandy candy, sand art and more. The festival is free and open to the public, with food and drink pay as you go. In the event of bad weather, the rain date is October 8. For more information, visit www.stnicksitalianfestival.com
Italian festivals have been held at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church for over 100 years. The parish was established in 1912 by Italian immigrants who wished to maintain a connection to their homeland, and their great spirit of faith, family and tradition has been maintained throughout the decades. The current-day festival began in 1987 on the occasion of the parish’s 75th Anniversary and has been thriving ever since. The event takes place annually on the first Sunday of October and is held on the 1700 Block of South 9th Street. It is free and open to the public.
Rev. Nick Martorano, pastor of the church, has strived to make it a very special celebration for South Philadelphia. He said, “We wanted to create an opportunity for our entire community, not just our parishioners, to come together and celebrate one of the many diverse cultures that make our neighborhood so great.”
Because of the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the day, this festival has indeed come to hold a special place in the hearts of all the local people and out of town visitors as well.
Keeping with the authentic nature of this occasion, the day begins with a procession at noon honoring some of the iconic saints of the Catholic church who are admired by the faithful and viewed as shining role models. The statues are carried through the street accompanied by the renowned Verdi Band playing traditional Italian marches.
Following the procession, the festival gets underway with its now famous variety of ethnic food delicacies, fine musical entertainment, rides and games for kids, and more.
The festival features an array of food from Italian restaurants around the region, offering a tantalizing showcase of Italy’s rich culinary heritage. The festival also includes live music and wine tastings, making it a feast for all the senses. Food vendors will include The Kitchen Consigliere, Marra’s Pizza, Esposito Porchetta, Termini Bros Bakery, Del Buono Bakery and others.
Food choices will include authentic Italian delicacies such as Arancini, Broccoli Rabe, Eggplant Rollatta, Escarole and Beans, Meatball Sandwiches, Porchetta Sandwiches, Pizza, Sausage and Peppers, Italian Seafood and Rice, Tripe, a Pasta Station, Italian Cakes and Desserts. Plus Chicken Fingers, Roast Beef Sandwiches, Wine, Beer and Cordials.
The East Passyunk Opera Project
The highly talented group brings opera directly into Philadelphia communities and creates heartfelt connections between audiences, artists, and their soulful music.
Philly’s finest accordion maestro is a crowd favorite every year.
The Vivaci Dancers
This captivating dance troupe demonstrates fascinating traditional steps and invites audience members to join the fun.
“That’s Amore: The Great Italian-American Songbook”
New York’s wonderful Jenna Esposito graces the stage with some of your favorite selections, joined by Steve Ritrovato’s sounds of Sinatra and the fine musicians of the City Rhythm Orchestra
Quaker City String Band
2023’s First Place String Band will deliver their amazingly rich sound and have everyone strutting on 9th Street.
City Rhythm “Love Train Dance Party”
These electrifying horns and singers will present party music from The Sounds of Philadelphia and more.
This national touring group dazzles audiences with a Tribute to Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons.
Also DJ Spanky Brown will host the proceedings and spin throughout the day.
Special Salute to Bobby Rydell, Charlie Gracie & Jerry Blavat
This year, the St. Nicholas of Tolentine Italian Festival is proud to honor the late Bobby Rydell, Charlie Gracie, and Jerry Blavat, who were all lost over a 9 month period last year. These three great entertainers and fine gentlemen have performed numerous times at our annual Italian Festival and for other occasions at St. Nicholas over the years. All three are on the Walk of Fame and the Philadelphia Music Alliance will share a citation.
Fr. Nick said “all three of these performers were deeply committed to St. Nicholas and were always conscious of their South Philadelphia roots.” Charlie Gracie was baptized and raised as a parishioner at St. Nicholas, and Bobby Rydell and Jerry Blavat grew up nearby. Committee member Frank Quinn said “over the last year as we received the news of these great men passing, we decided to dedicate this year’s festival to these fine ambassadors of our parish and community.” At 5:00pm, there will be a ceremony honoring the life of Bobby, Charlie and Jerry, and a presentation to their families in appreciation for all their support over the years.