The 125th Giglio Festival is under way in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where New Yorkers come in droves for the great food and a three-ton sight. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
Saint Paulinus is said to have freed local men from slavery by offering himself in their place. Returning from captivity years later, he was greeted by townspeople carrying lilys and the Feast of Giglio was born.
"It's a very long story. Started like 1,600 years ago in a town called Nola, Italy," said Lifter John Perrone.
"When the people came here to this country in the 1900s they continued the tradition," said Lifter Nick Camarrano.
Today that tradition carries on when 130 men carry an 80 foot statue up and down Havermeyer Street, while another 120 carry a life sized replica of the boat that brought the bishop home to Italy. The Giglio statue weighs three tons but longtime lifters say they barely notice.
"I feel pride. I don't feel no pain. No pain," said Lifter Tony Passalacqua.
"You don't feel a single twinge of pain in your body. It brings you to life. It's everything," said Lifter Peter Buonaiuto.
It's certainly everything to the generations of Brooklyn men who have hoisted the saint above the crowds.
Of course it's not an Italian feast without, well, an Italian feast. And while you're sure to find sausage and peppers and cannoli, word on the street is that the must have item is the braciole.
"Me personally I'm a braciole fan," said one festival goer.
"You don't eat the braciole and the sausage here, your finished," added one lifter.
"Our nonnas secret we can't tell you. If we tell you we have to either hire you or ship you to California," said Vinny Patuto of Cuzzin Vinny's Sausage Stand.
But more than the food, after 125 years it's the tradition behind the feast that draws the crowds.
"I was born into this. The generation before me was born into this. It's special. This is something that holds the neighborhood together," said one lifter.
The Giglio Feast runs every night through July 16.