Feast serving up Portuguese tradition

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

Ryan Dattilo brushes a secret sauce on grilled chicken during the annual Sao Paio Festival at the Naugatuck Portuguese Club in 2019. The annual feast is this weekend at the club. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN ARCHIVES

NAUGATUCK — Anyone looking for a taste of traditional Portuguese food and culture will find an abundance of both at the 71st annual Sao Paio Festival this weekend.

The Naugatuck Portuguese Club’s annual festival will serve up fried eels, Cavacas (Portuguese cookies), Pasteis de Nata (custard cups), chicken and more, with a side of live music and dancing at the club, 110 Rubber Ave.

The Feast of Sao Paio originated in the fishing village of Torreira, Portugal. According to legend, the feast started in remembrance of Saint Paio, who was beheaded during the Spanish Inquisition due to his unwavering loyalty to God. His body washed ashore in his village of Torreira. Since then, the village has honored him with a three-day feast.

The festival in Naugatuck was started in 1950 by the club’s former ladies auxiliary and has become an end-of-summer tradition in the borough.

Cavacas are prepped for the Naugatuck Portuguese Club’s 71st annual Sao Paio Festival. –CONTRIBUTED

“We just like to continue with the tradition for the community,” said club member Luci DaSilva, who helps to organize the feast.

DaSilva, 60, has been involved with the club and festival since she was a young girl.

“I just enjoy seeing the community come together and continue this tradition,” she said.

The festivities begin Friday with the Portuguese Mayor of the Day ceremony in front of Naugatuck Town Hall on Church Street at 10 a.m. Club member Pedro Pires will be honored this year.

There will be food served outside, live music by Duo Tropical and dancing from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the club. People can also stop by the club during the day to grab a bite to eat.

The revelries start Saturday morning with the 47th annual Sao Paio 5K Road Race, which is sponsored by the club and benefits the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls.

James Higgins, right, and his son, Luis, prepare eels Aug. 20 for the Naugatuck Portuguese Club’s 71st annual Sao Paio Festival. –CONTRIBUTED

Along with a 5K, the event features a fun walk and a kids fun run for children 12 years old and younger. Race day registration and race packet pickup starts at 7:30 a.m. at the club. The 5K starts at 9 a.m., followed by the fun walk at 9:15 a.m. and the kids fun run at 10 a.m. To pre-register, visit lightboxreg.com.

A traditional Portuguese costume parade for children is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at the club. All children are welcome to dress in traditional Portuguese attire and participate in the parade.

The weekend celebration wraps up Sunday with an 11:30 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Church, 2071 Baldwin St., Waterbury, in honor of all club members past and present. Lunch featuring Almoco de dobrada will be served at the club’s Casa Varina Restaurant starting at 12 p.m.

For information, visit naugatuckportugueseclub.com.