Festivals of the Summer: Celebrating a Rich Heritage

Festively attired traditional Italian dancers at St. James.

Contributing Writer
Walt Pickut

Jamestown was not built in a day, and not by a single culture. The people who built the city were proud to be American, all with high hopes to build something new and better. Ninety-nine percent of Greater Jamestown’s residents are U.S. citizens. Traditions from each heritage, however, do create a rich tapestry. Each adds its own pride and its history of successes and hardships.

Old Friends, New Friendships

“It’s not just for us,” Roseann Himes said of the 69th annual Festa di San Giacomo that she helps organize at St. James Church. “It’s for us to share Italian food, music, dances and fun with everyone else, ‘Under the Big Tent’.”

“The Annual Scandinavian Folk Festival is a gathering spot for old friends who haven’t seen each other for years,” added Don Sandy, a longtime organizer for the event, now back at JCC. “‘Behold Scandinavia’ is our theme this year,” Sandy said. “We want everyone to enjoy Scandinavia’s beauty and culture with us.”
And the annual Greek Yassou Festival on the grounds of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Jamestown makes everyone “Greek for a Day” on every Father’s Day. Greek food, fine baked delicacies, Live Bouzouki Music and Hellenic dancing arrive share the finest of Greek culture with everyone. No one goes home hungry or a stranger.

Festively attired traditional Italian dancers at St. James.

Festa di San Giacomo

“Get your dancing shoes on, and get ready for some great food,” say the folks at St. James Church, 27 Allen St. in Jamestown. On Saturday, July 14, from 11:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., one day only, all day long, they invite Jamestown Gazette readers to “Eat, drink and be merry and bring the whole family.” Free Parking!

Festa di San Giacomo, the Festival of St. James, is a traditional event celebrating the culture of the Italian community of Jamestown. “We’ve been working on this year’s event since January 1,” Himes said. “We have a core of about eight, and dozens more volunteers who have been baking and cooking for months, including old world recipes people just don’t see any more. Unfortunately, the carduni was late coming up this spring, so we’re replacing it with our special Caponata, a traditional and delicious sweet & sour eggplant dish.”

“This started long ago as a Southside Italian neighborhood event,” Himes said, “and now it’s for everybody!”

The Grand Procession of Scandinavian flags.

Scandinavian Folk Festival

“We’re happy Jamestown Community College invited us back after a long time away,” Don Sandy told the Gazette. “It’s where we started 17 years ago. And the Collegiate Center is the ideal place to prepare and serve traditional Swedish food.”

This 3-day event is slated for Friday through Sunday, July 20 to 22, at, JCC, 525 Falconer St. in Jamestown, Friday at 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Saturday at 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Sunday at 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. It will be a celebration of traditional Scandinavian music, ethnic foods, craft vendors, lectures and special events.

“One of my favorite events is the traditional Midsummer Pole (majstång) Dance at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday celebrating the summer solstice,” Don Sandy said. “It honors our Scandinavian ancestors (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland). But this event is for everyone. All are invited to bring their own flowers for the pole if they’d like.”

The Viking ship “Norseman” will be sailing on Chautauqua Lake, weather permitting. On Friday morning, July 20, it will be portaged to JCC for display and on-board tours at the Festival beside an authentic Viking village with 20 Viking villagers in full costume.

The 96th Highlander Pipes & Drums

The Clans Gather Again

For the 13th year, the Jamestown Regional Celtic Festival & Gathering of the Clans will take over Mayville’s Lakeside Park once again, Friday and Saturday, August 24 and 25, 2018. Festival times are Friday at 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Saturday at 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

“If you haven’t experienced the Irish and Scottish cultures yet,” said Doug Clark, the longtime organizing spirit behind the Celtic Festival, “then you’ve got to come down and enjoy it for yourself.” For music, start with the Town Pants at 7:00 p.m. Friday and come back Saturday for the always stirring six pipe bands and eight Celtic bands all hosted by the 96th Highlanders Pipe Band of Jamestown.

A specialty of the Celtic Festival is the heavy athlete competition, this year featuring 40 of the toughest heavy athletes tossing cabers and hefting other improbably hefty objects, and new this year, Scottish “back holding” wrestling, and a family gathering of 25 clans.

The festival is billed as “…an opportunity for bands from two countries and three states to perform, exchange music and ideas, and educate the public on Scottish and Irish culture in a friendly and cooperative atmosphere.”

All-American Festivals

Jamestown’s Ethnic Festivals are also All-American Festivals. They join all the other local and regional festivals like just about every community’s proud 4th of July Celebrations last week. Our ethnic festivals celebrate what many good people have brought to the United States over the last two centuries and more, all to make America America. Ethnic festivals celebrate what they all have to give us all. Celebrate!