Sao Paio feast this weekend

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David Silva of Naugatuck chops eels on Monday in preparation for the Sao Paio festival in Naugatuck. The festival is Friday, Saturday and Sunday. RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — The first Sunday afternoon in September has in recent years brought a lull to the borough’s Sao Paio festival, otherwise packed with nonstop eating, dancing, parades and ceremonies.

This year, however, the festival committee decided to ramp up the action.

An adult soccer game that was for a long time part of the festival has returned. The Naugatuck Fusion will face the Bridgeport Blue Dragons at 2 p.m. Sunday at Naugatuck High School.

The soccer game is not the only thing that has changed this year. The Sao Paio 5K Road Race has a new, flatter route that will run through the heart of downtown. The race begins Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Portuguese Club’s 110 Rubber Ave. headquarters. Proceeds will benefit the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls.

The Sao Paio festival draws more than 10,000 people from all over the state to the borough, which is known for its large Portuguese population. It honors the patron saint of Torreira, a fishing village in Portugal from which many borough residents immigrated. Legend has it that Sao Paio was beheaded during the Spanish Inquisition and his body washed up in Torreira.

The first event takes place Friday at 10 a.m., when Carlos Conceicao, who manages the club’s bar, will be honored as Portuguese Mayor of the Day.

“It’s another day for me,” Conceicao said.

Conceicao works construction for Arborio, a Cromwell-based corporation, and works at the club on a volunteer basis.

“He works very hard for this club and every time you ask him to do something, he’s available,” Branco said.

Family Night at the club begins Friday at 6 p.m. with dinner and dancing. The youth soccer tournament also begins Friday evening, with more rounds Saturday and Sunday morning. The annual parade, which features people dressed in traditional Portuguese clothing, begins Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Naugatuck Historical Society on Water Street.

A Mass will be held at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Waterbury, followed by the traditional “dobrada” lunch. The club will host live music and dancing Saturday and Sunday nights, and will sell traditional ethnic foods like cookies and fried eels in a secret sauce throughout the festival.

About 50 volunteers are cooking and preparing every day this week, said Rui Costa, the Portuguese Club’s president.

“Without them, we couldn’t do this kind of festival,” Costa said.