Report from Williamsburg’s Giglio Festival


St. Paulinus of Nola stands at the top of the giglio, and arrayed below him are members of a marching band and a black-frocked priest, who perch on the statue as it’s being lifted.

Sunday was the 122nd annual hoisting of the giglio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. More properly, the religious festival is known as The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Paulinus of Nola, and represents two festivals that were joined. An 80-foot tall, three-ton statue is lifted up and moved forwards and backwards, with many grunts and groans, as a captain spurs the lifters on, who number 131 and mainly come from the neighborhood. Usually it’s 100 degrees or so during the week the giglio is lifted, so the cooler summer temperatures are a boon to the lifters. (Giglio means “lily” in Italian, and is intended as a description of the shape of the tower.)

The festival occupies four blocks in the shadow of the BQE in front of Our Lady of Carmel R.C. Church. Alcoholic beverages are available only on church property, and a beer concession has been set up in the side yard of the church. There are carnival rides and games of skill, and many food carts, most of which you have probably seen at other street festivals. One cart, Fasulo’s, also known as John’s, vends Calabrian-style sausages and braciole grilled over charcoal; grilled long green chiles are the condiment of choice, and available at no charge. Zeppole carts are also worth visiting. There are Argentine and Greek vendors, too.

The festival extends through next weekend; following are some pictures of yesterday’s festivities. The story behind the festival is told here in the Daily News.

Fasulo’s charcoal-grilled braciole on a roll with sauteed onions and peppers and a long green chile.

Sunday just before sunset, the festival was mobbed.

The perennially popular Soak the Bloak, a game in which the guy in the cage insults your mother, and then you dunk him with a baseball aimed at the target bullseye.

Argentinean vendor displays spice rubbed steaks on a sort of metallic tree, then grills them over charcoal. Arepas are also available.

Freshly fried zeppole with a dusting of powdered sugar.

St. Paulinus seems to wave goodbye from the top of the giglio as the sun sets.