BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Feast of Mount Carmel Day is a holiday for all ages in Berkeley Heights. Due to July 16 falling on a Sunday this year, the all day celebration was held on Saturday, July 15.
"Feast Day" brings about a trip down memory lane for many to reminisce of years past -- and to carry on traditions. The Mount Carmel Society members continue to preserve these traditions, as well as their proud Italian heritage for future generations.
People can't stop reminiscing about the Berkeley Heights of their childhood. Memories go as far back as the Petrone family pepper farm that is now Peppertown Park; the bowling alley that is now Taylor Rental, and stopping next door for Dairy Queen [now Marcellos]; -- Chets Getty was the corner gas station; Pine Tree Inn [now TD Bank] and Rib & Bib [now Trap Rock] were dining choices; Delia Liquors had a "bunch of good reasons to stop in;" Berkeley Cinema was fully operational, showing the latest flicks; Berkeley Bakery [now 7-Eleven] was a staple for fresh Italian bread and victory cakes for almost three decades-- with "Sloppy Joes" served on the deli side; The Alley [now Delicious Heights] was the local watering hole; and Berkeley Hardware -- the go-to hardware mecca which remains family owned and operated by the Vicendese family.
While Berkeley Heights has seen much change, pride and traditions remain and that includes Feast Day and the fireworks extravaganza that is known throughout the state.
Memories of the families that belong to Mount Carmel Society go way back, 108 years to be exact -- when they first brought the Feast of Mount Carmel to Berkeley Heights from their Italian ancestors. Feast Day traditions continue in Berkeley Heights each year with the sound of early morning "bombs"; a parade led by the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary through the historic route of the streets of their members; the wearing of the "Brown Scapular" to show their faithful devotion to the Blessed Mary; the 11 a.m. mass held at the Church of the Little Flower, immediately followed by the community barbecue at Peppertown Park with the live brass band playing traditional songs.
With much preparation, this year's festival began at 6 p.m. with thousands of people entering the fairgrounds to enjoy the fair and fireworks show at 11 p.m. The 45 minute extravaganza presented by Garden State Fireworks and the Santore Family did not disappoint.
One thing is certain, the traditions of the Feast of Mount Carmel will return for years to come.