Cleveland chows down at The Feast

The+annual+festival+celebrated+Little+Italy%27s+Italian+culture+and+Catholic+rooots.+

Angeline Xiong/Observer

The annual festival celebrated Little Italy's Italian culture and Catholic rooots.

A man sat under the Mayfield Rapid Transit Authority bridge, greeting groups of pedestrians as they walked by, using the same line for everyone on their way to Little Italy:

“Excuse me, I think you dropped your smile.”

He was just a man trying to be pleasant, and maybe trying to make a buck; further away under the bridge was a violinist, some change sitting in her open instrument case.

After passing under the bridge, visitors were faced with the Feast of the Assumption Festival. The annual Little Italy street fair stretched up the Mayfield Road hill, featuring booths that sold stromboli, drinks and t-shirts. There was even a gambling booth section, located (strangely enough) on the sidewalk immediately adjacent to the Holy Rosary Catholic Church.

Holy Rosary has hosted the festival for the past 116 years in celebration of the Catholic feast day honoring the Assumption of Mary.

The Feast was going strong this past weekend, shutting down the usual high-traffic street and replacing cars with hungry visitors.

One of those visitors was Case Western Reserve University senior Austin Mak. “My favorite part of the feast is being around a lot of people,” he said. “You don’t really see a lot of people walking around that late at night.”

Mak celebrated the long weekend event with his usual Feast food order: cheese ravioli with meatballs. Fellow CWRU senior Alex Xu tried the cannoli.

Xu thought the event was a pretty standard block party, but it also brought out the character of the city. “I like meeting new people,” said Xu. “It seemed like the actual side of Cleveland that I can’t really experience just at Case.”

For those who live in Little Italy like myself, The Feast was a different sort of experience than just a quick visit for food. Music continued into the late hours of the night, cigar smoke wafted in a steady breeze over the crowd and litter scattered around the streets and sidewalks, to be collected in the morning.

On Sunday, Aug. 16, Little Italy’s residents celebrated the last day of The Feast by gathering in the streets and on rooftops to admire fireworks shot out over the neighborhood, mostly in green, white and red colors.

Just a few streets away from the explosive boom of the fireworks, I ran outside to catch the majority of the show. When it was over, I could hear cheering and applause surrounding the neighborhood, despite not being near any other guests.

The sense of neighborly pride is one that makes The Feast stand out. It’s not just a block party; it’s a cultural celebration.

Though many Clevelanders face difficult commutes because of the Mayfield Road closure, a few days of clogged traffic pays itself off with a standing Little Italy tradition.

“I think anything that brings a community together is valuable, especially when all these new students come in,” said Mak.