By Tim Harfmann
Tens of thousands of spectators filled the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
It was Giglio Sunday — the highlight of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Feast.
“It’s magic. It’s absolute magic. Nothing in the world compares to this,” said Neil Dellamonica, who assists in leading the Giglio lifters.
About 100 men lifted the seven-story, four-ton tower by its steel beams. At the top is a statue of Saint Paulinus, an Italian saint.
The 116-year-old tradition continued thanks in part to the parish’s first-ever recruitment drive.
“It not only ensured lifters for the future, but it got a lot of people’s attention about the feast. Also, a lot of young people got involved in it that weren’t,” said Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello, the church’s pastor, of the nearly 80 new lifters that signed up.
Sammy Ciorciari was one of them. The 46-year-old grew up in Williamsburg and attended the feast as a child. Now a Long Island resident, he wanted to return to his roots and help a fast-changing neighborhood retain memories of the past.
“To be back to lift, to have that opportunity, is all I wanted. It’s kind of like an aspiration to be a lifter one day,” said Ciorciari.
For others, like John Durante, being part of the feast runs in the family.
“My father’s been coming here, his father was coming here, over 111 years Durantes have been coming here and lifting this Giglio,” said Durante.
He’s now sharing the experience with his children. Durante’s seven-year-old son, Joseph, already understands the tradition.
“It celebrates saints and the Church and how much you should love Jesus and how He sacrificed Himself,” said Joseph.
The men consider lifting the Giglio a sacrifice of themselves by hoisting the structure as a penance for those who can’t and as a way of remembering their deceased loved ones.
“I feel like they’re right here under the Giglio with me,” said Ciorciari, who lifted in honor of his cousins.
Dellamonica said new members like Ciorciari will keep the tradition alive for another 116 years; “It’s nice to see some enthusiasm in it once again, and it’s also nice to see that all these people want to be involved.”
If you missed Giglio Sunday, there are two other opportunities to watch the lifters: Wednesday, July 17 beginning at 7pm and Sunday, July 21 beginning at 1:30pm.