BAYONNE, NJ - Under a tent at the end of a row lining DelMonte Drive for the weekly Bayonne Farmers’ Market, members of the Bayonne Sicilian Citizens' Club allowed the public to get a taste of their culture as they cooked up fresh batches of zeppole.
“These go back a thousand years,” one of the group of men said as he pulled out the hot dough from the oil then coated each powdered sugar. The man – and a few young boys – laughed, even though they, like everybody else for much of 2020, have had to suspend many of their traditional ceremonies on account of COVID-19.
The club, celebrating its 93rd anniversary in 2020, is something of a throwback to another era, a time capsule to an era when desperate immigrants, ravaged and seeking refuge from their war-torn homeland in the 1930s and 1940s, found each other and started to make Bayonne their home.
Old friends or new met in their new homeland with a common bond of familiar ancestry. Family ties were rekindled, work was offered, help was ready and waiting.
The group is very active in the community, and regularly holds bocce league championships, supports charities such as the Special Olympics, and has for years held a regular dinner dance. Earlier this year, members of the club got to take part in a very special ceremony in Garfield meeting Nello Musumeci, President of the region of Sicily, who had come to New Jersey to meet with members of the state’s Sicilian community.
To understand the strong influence this community has both locally – they have honored state Assembly Nicholas Chiaravalloti and been honored by Mayor Jimmy Davis – and statewide - officials attending the event in January included Governor Phil Murphy, Representatives Bill Pascrell and Josh Gottheimer and a host of other dignitaries.
Rumor has it that legendary singer Frank Sinatra, a frequent performer in Bayonne’s Hi Hat Club, and standout member of big bands with strange names such as "The Secaucus Cockamamies" to "The Bayonne Bacalas” used to hang out at the Avenue C club house and may have co-written songs over drinks there between sets.
Visit the Bayonne Sicilian Citizens' Club at the Bayonne Farmers’ Market every Tuesday from 2:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m.
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