SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- For the first time since its inception in 1974, there will be no Italian Festival at St. Bartholomew Church on Labor Day Weekend in Scotch Plains.
The sad news was reported to TAPintoSPF by John Lestarchick, a member of St. Bart's festival committee, and Paul Raphael, the president of the local chapter of UNICO, the Italian American service organization.
Dear Scotch Plains Community,
It is with great sadness, and a heavy heart, that we are announcing the cancellation of the 2020 St. Bartholomew/UNICO Italian Festival. Since 1974, this event has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors, and has been a staple in our community. We held out hope that conditions would improve, and this long-standing tradition would go on as planned, but at this point we believe this is the decision that had to be made for the safety and well-being of our volunteers, vendors and visitors.
While this has been a challenging decision, we are looking forward to coming back in full force in 2021.
"We waited as long as we could, but in the interest of not putting people at risk, we decided to cancel the festival," said Paul Raphael. "If even one person got sick, I'd have a hard time stomaching that."
The cancellation of the St. Bart's Festival bookends the summer of 2020, which began (unofficially) on Memorial Day weekend without the annual parade through Scotch Plains and Fanwood.
The four-day festival takes an army of volunteers -- about 350 per night -- to handle ticket sales, set up, clean up, and anything else that is needed. There has always been a mass in Italian, followed by a procession honoring St. Bartholomew and St. Nicholas di Bari, the patron saint of the town of Montazzoli, Italy, on Saturday evening of the festival. Music performances are a relatively new addition. The event draws about 30,000 visitors each year.
To learn more about the history of the St. Bart's festival, click here to read an interview that appeared in TAPintoSPF in 2014, when the event's founders reminisced about the beginning fo the feast.
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