Sao Paio fest back for 63rd year

Naugatuck Portuguese Club members from left Armando Rodrigues, Fred Valente and Maria Emador prepares eels Thursday morning at the club on Rubber Avenue for the 63rd annual Feast of Sao Paio Festival, which begins on Friday. The club bought and prepared 800 pounds of eels for the festival.  –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck Portuguese Club members from left Armando Rodrigues, Fred Valente and Maria Emador prepares eels Thursday morning at the club on Rubber Avenue for the 63rd annual Feast of Sao Paio Festival, which begins on Friday. The club bought and prepared 800 pounds of eels for the festival. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Eels, soccer tournaments and live music will all come together this weekend for the 63rd annual Feast of Sao Paio Festival.

The three-day festival is put on by the Naugatuck Portuguese Club.

“There isn’t a Labor Day weekend without the Feast of Sao Paio in Naugatuck,” said Frances Branco, a member of the Portuguese Club who helps to organize the festival.

The festival begins at 10 a.m. Friday at Town Hall with the celebration of the Portuguese Mayor of the Day. Friday is also the start of the SPIN soccer tournament which coincides with the festival and lasts until Sunday.

The festival was started in 1950 by Branco’s sister, Maria Marques, who the president of the Lady’s Auxiliary branch of the club. Marques wanted to bring the Portuguese communities in Naugatuck together, Branco said.

“It was a group of people that was considered a family,” Branco said.

Since its inception the festival has grown into one of the larger events in the borough.

“As the years progressed the festival became more and more successful to the point where Friday and Saturday are really overwhelming,” Branco said. “It’s people just having a great time.”

Tony Marques, Maria Marques’ son, has been involved with the festival for many years.

“We’ve built it up every year,” Marques said. “It’s a tradition for Labor Day Weekend.”

Marques said people come to this festival year after year because of the food and activities that go on throughout the weekend.

“Everybody has a great time,” Marques said.

Marques said he only wishes the club had more land so the festival could be even bigger.

Saturday morning will begin with the 39th annual Sao Paio 5K road race.

Registration for the race is from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. at the club and proceeds benefit the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls. The race’s course goes through downtown Naugatuck.

A parade will step off at 6 p.m. Saturday from the Naugatuck Train Station, 195 Water St., to the club on Rubber Avenue. Folklore dancing and a live band will be at the club until 12 a.m.

On Sunday the festival begins at 11:30 a.m. with mass at Our Lady of Fatima Church, 2071 Baldwin St., Waterbury. Traditional dobrada, a tripe dinner, will be served at the club.   

While the activities draw a crowd Branco said that most people come for the food, including the club’s famous fried eels.

Branco said the club purchased 800 pounds of eels this year, all of which were washed and then cleaned by hand one at a time over the past few days.

The club will also be selling Chicken, sardines, eels, soup, shrimp, sandwiches of pork, roast beef, sausage and peppers, burgers, hotdogs and fried dough.

Branco is in charge of the sweet goods, including the traditional Sao Paio cookie the Cavacas.

Manuel Teixeira has run the festival’s beer garden for the past 15 years. He said people keep coming back because of the tradition and because it is a good time.

“This is the best thing that goes on in Naugatuck this time of year,” Teixeira said.

The following is a schedule of events for the 63rd annual Feast of Sao Paio Festival provided by the Naugatuck Portuguese Club:

Friday

10 a.m.: Opening ceremonies and Mayor of the Day presentation, Naugatuck Town Hall

6 p.m.: SPIN soccer tournament.

7:30-11:30 p.m: Family Night, dancing with music provided by CNT Entertainment from Connecticut.

Saturday

8 a.m.: Registration for Sao Paio 5K Road Race at Portuguese Club, 110 Rubber Ave.

8 a.m.: SPIN soccer tournament kick off

9 a.m.: Sao Paio 5K Road Race starting on Elm Street (next to Auto Zone)

6 p.m.: Sao Paio Parade starting from the Naugatuck Historical Society, 195 Water St..  Prizes will be awarded for best Portuguese costume

7 p.m.: Folklore dancing exhibition at club grounds. Appearances by several New England dance groups.

9 p.m.: Dancing with music provided by Intensity from Connecticut.

Sunday

8 a.m.: SPIN soccer tournament

11:30 a.m.: Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Church on Baldwin Street in Waterbury.

12 p.m.: Lunch (Almoco de Dobrado) will be served at the Portuguese Club.

6-10 p.m.: Dancing with music provided by CNT Entertainment from Connecticut.