The party starts on July 11
Reverend David Rivera and Reverend Joseph Capella walk past the statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel during the July 16, 2021 procession. (THG/Betsey Karl. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704 – 1940.)
HAMMONTON—Volunteers prepare for the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. With many counting down to the day of the feast, the Society of Our Lady of Mount Carmel notified people on Facebook of the event. This year’s party will be the 147th edition and is the oldest Italian festival in the country.
The festival begins Monday, July 11 with a carnival by Amusements of America, food stalls, entertainment and more.
The feast day, Saturday July 16, begins with a morning mass in Italian at 10 a.m. and a midday mass in Spanish. Two more Masses at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. are planned this year, however, the procession begins at 4 p.m. used for decades.
One of the main attractions of the Feast is the carnival, which will open at 6 p.m. sharp on weekdays. The carnival itself is free admission, but patrons can purchase tickets (before the party week begins or at the carnival) for each ride. The bracelet evenings will take place on July 12, 13 and 14 and the cost is $30.
There will be entertainment every night at both the Society on Tilton Street and St. Joseph’s Church in St. Mary’s Parish of Mt. Carmel on Third Street. The Sons of Italy room will also be open to the public on July 15 and 16.
The Gazette had the opportunity to speak with Mt. Carmel Society President Lou Pantalone about this year’s party and the history of the festival.
“In 1875, on July 16, our ancestors… migrated to Hammonton. That day they took a picture of the blessed mother, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and they made a procession through the fields of where they lived, to thank the blessed mother and our Lord for their safe passage here,” Pantalone said. said.
He said they were also praying for the growth of crops, while thanking the Lord for the opportunity to be in a land where they could prosper.
“From that day on, every year on July 16, there was a procession. This continued in this area on Pine Road for 10 years, until the first Catholic church was built in Hammonton,” Pantalone continued.
St Joseph’s Church on Third Street was the first church built in Hammonton and quickly became the focal point of the festival. According to the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society website, the group was chartered as an independent organization in 1905. In 1955, the organization built its meeting hall and current location on Tilton Street, including a part was renamed Mt. Carmel Lane in honor of the party and the organization.
The Society itself maintains the party as a tradition, with many volunteers and members working closely together each year to organize the event. The organization has a closed membership of 50 members, and generally membership is passed down from father to son. Membership allows for a close relationship with the organization, but planning the event can be a difficult task with only 50 members.
“Last year probably close to 80,000 people came to our small town of Hammonton during the week, but this is a year-round event for us. As this year unfolds, we are thinking about next year, so there is a lot to do,” said Pantalone.
Pantalone mentioned having to prepare for the entertainment, but especially the religious aspects of the Feast. He said getting everything ready for the July 16 procession is the main goal and everything else is a by-product.
“We are here to continue the tradition that our ancestors started on July 16, 1875. To be very grateful, to the intercession of our blessed mother and to continue this tradition,” said Pantalone.
Pantalone said the town of Hammonton supports the festival and many people have attended for many years.
“When you grow up in Hammonton, it’s like Christmas,” Pantalone said.
He explained that this is an event that people look forward to, and people who walk away still come back to town for this particular event. Pantalone said he had a personal relationship with the festival, as his grandfather was in the organization as well as his father, brother, uncle and two cousins.
“It’s very impactful from this religious aspect. They really did a lot to continue to preserve this special day for us…and to show that it takes faith, it takes respect, and it takes ethics. Work ethic, pride, all those things that teach us, and we pass that on to our children. It is very important to maintain this tradition,” said Pantalone.
Mt. Carmel Society Vice President Frank Italiano believes the organization itself is a crucial aspect of the festival.
“It’s super special for us guys who are part of the Mt. Carmel Society, it’s also a super special bond. You’re all basically parents, or some kind of parents, and it’s been a great week It’s tiring, these guys work day and night for an entire week, they work up to it,” Italiano said.
The work done by the Society does not go unnoticed, as many Hammontonians and visitors from all walks of life flock to the event each year.
To add to the festive week, Sons of Italy will be hosting two open house events during the week.
The lodge at 427 N. Third Street will be open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, July 15 and Saturday, July 16.
Stealing Savanah will perform July 15 starting at 7 p.m.
Hammonton’s favorite DJ, Nicky G, will be playing music starting at 6 p.m. on July 16.
Food will be available after 11 a.m. T-shirts and tank tops will also be on sale.