CUMBERLAND – Steaming plates of tripe stew and barbecue chicken and the traditional Marchas de São João will highlight Clube Juventude Lusitana’s annual Saint John’s Feast, a three-day Portuguese festival that kicks off tonight.
One of the biggest Portuguese feasts of its kind in Rhode Island, the festival grounds at the club’s headquarters on Chase Street, including its three function halls, will be teeming with activity with everything from Portuguese folkloric dancing groups to the club’s traditional São João parade in honor of St. John’s Day.
The feast of St. John the Baptist is widely celebrated in Portugal with parades, pageants, bullfights, fireworks, and other popular amusements. The feast day coincides with the June solstice, which is also referred to as midsummer.
The festival in Cumberland will be held Friday from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.; Saturday from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.; and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Non-stop live musical entertainment for this year’s feast will be provided by Portuguese rock bands Edge, Eratoxica and Sugertown.
There will also be plenty of traditional Portuguese foods and beverages available over the weekend, including dobrada (tripe stew), barbecue chicken, chicken and rice, sardines, dough boys and carne de espeto, which is Portuguese meat cooked on skewers.
The festival kicks off Friday at 5 p.m. with the opening of the kitchen, food pavilions and all stations throughout the festival grounds. Eratoxica will take the stage at 8:30 p.m.
Saturday’s festival highlights include the club’s traditional parade of club members and guests, and performances of the Clube Juventude Lusitana Band, including the “Marchas de Sao Joao.” The Clube Juventude Lusitana Band, a Portuguese-American community band, was founded in 1926. Edge will be the headliner Saturday at 9 p.m.
On Sunday, the festival will open with a special Mass in honor of all deceased club members at 9:30 a.m. at Our Lady of Fatima Church, and five Portuguese folk dancing groups performing in the large hall beginning at 2:30 p.m. Sugartown will take the stage Sunday at 8 p.m.
Cumberland has a large and active second and third generation Portuguese-American community. Many of these citizens immigrated from the Azores Islands to work at the factories in Cumberland and the adjacent cities of Pawtucket and Central Falls. In addition to the Saint John's Festival, there is also the Our Lady of Fatima Festival held at Our Lady of Fatima Church on Labor Day weekend, which also includes traditional Portuguese music, dance and parades.
The non-profit Clube Juventude Lusitana was founded in 1921 to maintain and promote the Portuguese language and culture along with its traditions and customs. The club has about 700 members.
Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7