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The Mount Carmel Festival marks 75 years as a community tradition

The aroma of garlic and onions wafted through the air of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church Wednesday morning as Claudia Presta and several veteran volunteers worked to prepare another 50 gallons of pasta sauce for the church’s festival this weekend.

The same scent has wafted through the church’s air for decades as this year’s festival is the church’s 75th Diamond Jubilee.

Presta grew up in Mount Carmel Church and attended the church’s school as a child. For her, the festival, and volunteering at the festival, have always been a part of her life.

“What I really like about it is that we all work together,” she said. “And then the sense of accomplishment, knowing that we put it on, and people came and they liked it and had fun.”

Presta said it is “fantastic” to see how the festival’s business has grown significantly over the past 30-40 years.

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“For us, it is important to do a good job for the community. We do the best we can so that when the community comes here, they will be happy,” she said. “Maybe that night, for an hour (or) a couple of hours, they can just relax and not worry about anything, eat their food, drink their drinks, talk to people (and) relive some of their own traditions.”

Every year, Presta and her team “have to increase our volumes (of food) to handle public demand.”

Longtime festival chairman Tom Rizzo has also seen the festival grow, from having canvas-covered booths to multiple tents and from playing traditional Italian music played by a parishioner to live music.

“It started with, like, maybe one big tent, and then all of a sudden we had a couple of bigger tents,” he said. “And before you know it, we decided, ‘let’s just tent the whole thing.’

75 years

This year technically marks the 77th anniversary of the Kenosha church’s festival, which includes the two-year COVID-19 hiatus in which the festival was not held.

Mount Carmel’s festival was originally held on July 16 to mark the day of the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, according to Rizzo, but was later established as the first weekend after Independence Day to avoid scheduling conflicts with other church festivals.

Rizzo, who has been chairman for the past 30 years but has worked at the festival since he was a child, said some of the traditions that have stood the test of time are the procession, the spaghetti dinner and popular foods like the roast. the dough and the egg rolls.

“One of the nuns in the parish, who was a Vietnamese nun, started this tradition decades ago, where she would make homemade egg rolls for the festival,” he said. “She passed away a long time ago, and another family, the Doans, took over and now they make 10,000 homemade egg rolls for the festival.”

Although the area around Mount Carmel has changed, Rizzo said the procession is a memory that sticks out in his mind.

“We keep that tradition, and we walk through the neighborhood, and people who are in and out of that neighborhood who are not familiar with it, when they see the procession on Sunday, they come out of their houses and they watch,” he said . “So it’s kind of nice to see how the neighborhood has changed, and yet they still respect what we’re doing.”

Presta also remembers attending the procession as a child and sees it as an important part of the weekend’s festivities.

“The train, to me, has always been the biggest tradition and it’s one that’s very important. We take it very seriously,” she said. “We make sure we do everything the way it was done all those decades ago.”

The congregation

According to a special section of the Kenosha News for the festival’s 50th anniversary, submitted by the congregation, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary was established between 1904-08 after Archbishop Sebastian Messmer of Milwaukee sent the Rev. Joseph Angelletti, of Perugia, Italy, to Kenosha for to establish a congregation for the Italian-speaking people of the city. Due to an increase in the Italian population, a new church, Mount Carmel, was established between 1921-32 at 22nd Avenue and 45th Street. At that time Reverend Angelo Simeoni became the pastor of the church.

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