Feast carries on traditions



What: 67th annual Sao Paio Feast

When: Aug. 31-Sept. 2

Where: Naugatuck Portuguese Club, 110 Rubber Ave.

Details: The feast kicks off Friday at 10 a.m. with the Portuguese Mayor of the Day presentation at Naugatuck Town Hall. The food concession stands open at 6 p.m. at the club. Live music by Arlindo Andrade and Naida Pavoa starts at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, the festival starts at 9 a.m. with the 43rd annual Sao Paio 5K Road Race. Race packets can be picked up picked up at the club starting at 7:30 a.m. More information and registration for the race can be found at www.fasttracktiming.com. The club will host a children’s traditional Portuguese folkloric wear contest at 5 p.m. and a folklore dancing exhibition at 6 p.m. Live music by Sagres starts at 9 p.m.

On Sunday, the festival will start with a mass at 11:30 a.m. at the Our Lady of Fatima Church in Waterbury. The club will host a lunch at 12 p.m., and live music by Karisma will begin at 6 p.m.

Info: For information, call 203-729-6894.

Members of the Waterbury-based Folklore Dancers perform before hundreds of people during the annual Sao Paio Feast at the Naugatuck Portuguese Club in 2013. This year’s Sao Paio Feast kicks off on Friday. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Portuguese Club’s annual Sao Paio Feast has brought a taste of Portugal to Naugatuck for more than six decades.

Maria Fidalgo attended the Sao Paio Feast in Torreira, Portugal, where it originated, until she was 15 years old. She said the festival, which takes place alongside the ocean, was one of the highlights of the summer.

“It was a beautiful place that I loved to go to. There were sand dunes like when you go to (Cape Cod),” Fidalgo said. “They would have bands and people just slept out in the open.”

When Fidalgo, now 78, immigrated to America, she found that others had brought the traditional feast to Naugatuck.

“They started it here,” Fidalgo said. “It was like bringing a little bit of home.”

Clube Uniao Portuguesa’s 67th annual Sao Paio Feast kicks off on Friday. The three-day feast features live music, a children’s traditional Portuguese folkloric wear and a folklore dancing exhibition. Of course, there’s the food, including Portuguese delicacies like fried and marinated eels.

The feast has become a Naugatuck event, and Fidalgo’s glad the borough community has embraced it.

“I think it is a good thing because, after all, the United States of America is composed of so many ethnicities. It is great that we can incorporate a little bit of our memories and country into it and enjoy others, like going to Waterbury for the Italian festival,” Fidalgo said.

Joe Nunes and John Regalado, both Naugatuck residents, were busy washing out the large walk-in refrigerators at the club earlier this month in preparation for a shipment of eels, one of the foods the club is known for during the feast.

Nunes said the club cooks eels because it’s tradition and offers a taste of home.

“It is one of the traditions from where we came from in Torreira, Portugal. It is where my father came from and where most of the early members came from,” Nunes said.

Nunes said the feast highlights the traditions people brought to America from Portugal.

“It’s wonderful. I wish more people would show up,” Nunes said.

Regalado said he doesn’t always attend other events or festivals, but never misses the Sao Paio Feast.

“This one, I always come. We all get together. We do our work together,” Regalado said.

The one common theme that everyone, whether they volunteer or just enjoy attending the feast, spoke about was the sense of community the feast fosters.

Naugatuck resident Gil Darocha, who emigrated from the Portuguese island of Azores, said the feast draws people from all over Connecticut and surrounding states.

“You get people from all over the place. Everybody is getting together. This is a chance to see people you don’t see for the longest time,” Darocha said.

Fidalgo said the work put into the feast every year is well worth it.

“It is hard work, but it is fun too. I really enjoy that, and seeing so many of our community friends here and enjoying it, that is a tremendous joy,” Fidalgo said.

Nunes encouraged everyone to come to the feast for a good time.

“People are dancing, eating the eels and having a good time. Come down for a few beers and enjoy yourself,” Nunes said.