As the clock struck 11:15 a.m. on a breezy Thursday afternoon, church bells began ringing. All around, people looked with anticipation—the annual summer festival that graces Little Italies all over the country was about to begin.
Everywhere, people greeted each other like old friends, asking about their sisters, their grandparents, other extended relatives and neighbors.
The Feast of the Assumption (locally known as the Feast) is a four-day celebration of religious and cultural significance to the Little Italy community and is one of the district’s biggest festivals.
The Feast is centered around the Catholic holy day of the Virgin Mary’s Assumption. Catholics believe that the Virgin Mary was brought up to heaven by the power of God after her death.
So, it naturally follows that the festival began with a solemn Mass at the Holy Rosary Church on Mayfield Road, presided by Bishop Nelson Perez.
The festivities continued with a procession honoring the Virgin Mary. It aimed to demonstrate the parishioner’s faith in God’s miracles on Earth and their commitment to the Catholic faith.
The Feast featured a multitude of points of interest for Catholics and non-Catholics alike including homemade food from local restaurants and bakeries, both hard and non-alcoholic beverages, live musical performances, carnival games and rides and fireworks to help the festival go out with a bang.
On both sides of Mayfield Road, restaurants and vendors set up shop with bright, loud banners advertising everything from fresh cannolis and tiramisu to homemade meatballs and banana peppers stuffed with cheese.
Games and rides stood beside the cathedral, and the enthusiastic attendees rushed to board the Ferris wheel, climb into the haunted house and pound on plastic frogs to get them onto the fabricated lily pads for prizes of stuffed animals and other items.
The festival also aimed to celebrate the community’s Italian heritage. Little Italy was established in 1885, mostly built by Italian immigrants working as skilled stonemasons in the nearby Lakeview Marble Works. By 1911, it was estimated that 96 percent of the inhabitants were born in Italy and two percent were of Italian parents.
These new Clevelanders brought traditions from the countries they emigrated from, in hopes of a better life. Since its commission in 1891, the Holy Rosary parish has become a staple in the community.
After 121 years, the Holy Rosary Church still celebrates its ancestry and cultural heritage. People from all over Cleveland flock to Little Italy to get a taste of its legendary food and appreciate the area’s traditional yet exciting ambiance year-round.
Little Italy isn’t just a collection of houses on the side of the Case Western Reserve University campus. It’s a community held together by a shared ethnic background, as well as religious and familial values.