Feast serves up Portuguese culture

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Naugatuck residents Flora Fidalgo, right, and Caroline Pereira frost cavacas cookies at the Naugatuck Portuguese Club last year in preparation for the annual Feast of Sao Paio. The festival runs Sept. 4 through Sept 6 this year. –FILE PHOTO
Naugatuck residents Flora Fidalgo, right, and Caroline Pereira frost cavacas cookies at the Naugatuck Portuguese Club last year in preparation for the annual Feast of Sao Paio. The festival runs Sept. 4 through Sept 6 this year. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — Eels, cavacas and a 5K race? It must be time for the annual Sao Paio Festival.

The Naugatuck Portuguese Club will host its 65th Annual Feast of Sao Paio Labor Day weekend.

The festival kicks off at 10 a.m. Sept. 4 with the Portuguese Mayor of the Day celebration at Town Hall. This year the borough will recognize David Silva.

The food stands at the club, 110 Rubber Ave., will open at noon Sept. 4. Among the Portuguese delicacies that will be available are deep fried eels, which the festival is known for, and cavacas, a cookie.

Luci DaSilva, who is one of the organizers of the festival’s annual 5K road race and wife of festival chairman Jaime DaSilva, said the annual feast is just about the only place people can purchase cavacas outside of Portugal.

The first day of the festival will also feature live music and dancing from 7 to 11 p.m. at the club.

The 41st annual Sao Paio 5K Road Race will get things started on Sept. 5.

The race, which is a fundraiser for the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls, features a 5K, a fun walk and a kid’s fun run for children 12 years old and under.

Registration starts at 7:30 a.m. at the club. The registration fee is $25 in advance, $30 on race day, $15 for students and walkers and $5 for the kid’s fun run. The 5K starts at 9 a.m. followed by the fun walk at 9:15 a.m. and the kid’s fun run at 10 a.m.

Registration can be done online at fasttracktiming.com, search term Naugatuck Sao Paio Road Race. For more information on the race, call DaSilva at (203) 729-9621 or Jim Goggin at (203) 996-6675.

At 5 p.m., the club will host a contest for children depicting Portuguese traditional outfits that were worn for everyday use and for special occasions. At 6 p.m. there will be a folklore dance exhibition.

A dobrada lunch, which is a tripe and chickpea recipe from Portugal, is Sept. 6 at 12 p.m. at the club. The evening will feature dancing and music.

The festival was started 65 years ago by the ladies auxiliary of the Portuguese Club. According to DaSilva, most of the Portuguese residents who lived in the borough at the time emigrated from the Murtosa region of Portugal, where the feast originated.

“They thought [the festival] would be a nice thing to bring to the town,” DaSilva said. “They did it to bring their culture to Naugatuck. They would be surprised that it’s still happening 65 years later.”

DaSilva attributed the festival’s longevity to its popularity with residents outside the Portuguese community.

“It’s not just the Portuguese community that volunteers now. There are a lot of different members of the town that help out,” she said. “I think they like it and it helps the town also. It’s more of a community event now.”

DaSilva said urged everyone to come down to the festival and have a good time.

“There is good food, good music, and everyone is happy. We’re a friendly group of people,” DaSilva said.