Naugatuck Portuguese Club keeping Sao Paio tradition alive

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

70th annual feast to go on with restrictions due to COVID-19

A volunteer makes cavacas cookies recently at the Naugatuck Portuguese Club. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Portuguese Club’s 70th annual Sao Paio Feast will go on this year despite changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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 President Roldao Carvalho will be honored this year.

“It’s my pleasure to be mayor of the day, because the people nominated me to compensate for my hard work in the club,” Carvalho said.

From there, the celebration will move to the club at 110 Rubber Ave. There won’t be any traditional Portuguese folklore dancing, live music or vendors this year, however, due to restrictions on gatherings.

There will be a dinner party from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday for club members. Seating is limited to 100 people per night. Tickets are $50, and reservations are needed to attend the dinner. The dinner will feature Portuguese cuisine including pork sausage, sardines, grilled chicken, and sweet bread and Sao Paio cookies for dessert.

Food will be available for sale throughout the weekend. Portuguese delicacies like cavacas cookies and eels are on the menu, and a pig barbecue with pork bread and wine is planned for Saturday at 1 p.m. People can call the club at 203-729-689 for information or to order food for takeout.

On Sunday, a mass will be held at our Lady of Fatima Church on Baldwin Street in Waterbury at 11:30 a.m. followed by a lunch at the club. Club members will be given priority for seating at the lunch.

Although the festival won’t have the same level of revelry this year due to the coronavirus outbreak, Carvalho said club members wanted to keep the Sao Paio Feast tradition alive.

“It’s important for us. The 70 years, the hard work people have to do to keep the tradition from Portugal alive in the Naugatuck Valley,” Carvalho said.

Club member Luci Dasilva said, “We all want a little celebration back.”

The Feast of Sao Paio was brought to the borough from 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 remembered him with a three-day feast.

After being introduced in Naugatuck in 1950 by Portuguese immigrants, the feast has become a borough tradition, as well.

Carvalho said the club is going to miss the big festival and socializing with the thousands of people who come every year, many from other towns and states.

“On Saturday night, we used to draw like 10,000 people just from this club outside,” club Secretary John Rodrigues said.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated the lunch on Sunday is for club members only. Club members will be given priority for seating.