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San Rocco: A little taste of Italy in Sarnia

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Journal Staff

Since 1972 the local Italian community has been offering residents a taste of Italian heritage.

Sarnia’s San Rocco Festival was created for the families that arrived from Italy in the 1960s and 1970s. A group of fathers and grandfathers banded together to recreate the traditions of their homeland with a celebration of food and drink and homage to Italian customs, said president Paul Caschera.

The festival’s committee has managed to sustain interest by offering something for everyone, he said.

Caschera recalls helping out behind the scenes as a child, with fond memories of Go Kart races, great food and fun.

“That’s how we have maintained it and kept it going, by keeping the young people involved.”

The 43rd annual installment is slated for Aug. 8 and 9 at Clearwater Arena, featuring bocce tournaments, various food and beverage booths, games and activities for youth, live bands and dancing.

Big Lou and the Band take the stage on Saturday, headlining the music and dancing from 7 p.m. to midnight.

Sunday’s entertainment runs from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., featuring the musical act Eclipse.

A partners dance contest is slated for Sunday at 9 p.m.

The San Rocco Festival is named after San Rocco, the Italian patron saint of the sick. A statue of him is carried in a solemn procession to honour his protection. That procession is an important tradition maintained by similar festivals in Italy and around the globe.

San Rocco was reportedly born of French nobility around 1285 and cared for victims of The Plague while on a pilgrimage to Rome. According to legend, he became sick and was nursed back to health by a dog that licked his wound and brought him food.

There is no admission, and the festival is open to everyone.

A San Rocco Lottery Draw will be held Sunday at 11 p.m. with proceeds benefitting St. Joseph’s Hospice and Our Lady of Mercy Church.

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