For more than 120 years, Little Italy has celebrated the Feast of the Assumption, a holy day for Catholics commemorating Mary the mother of Jesus. The festival, hosted by the Holy Rosary Catholic Church, takes place Aug. 15-18 in Little Italy and is open to all. It combines delectable foods with comradery between friends and strangers alike. “It’s a time to celebrate Italian heritage and share the roots and pride of the Italian heritage,” event coordinator Tammy Moore says. Here are three things to know about the Feast of the Assumption. holy-rosary.org
When immigrants from Italy’s Abruzzo region, famous for its coast and fishing piers, founded Cleveland’s Little Italy in 1885, they brought their seafood cuisine with them. Taste the tradition by heading to the clam stand on the corner of East 123rd Street and Mayfield Road for a dozen clams. But plenty of other faves such as cavatelli or Italian sausage will be in abundance. If you have a sweet tooth, treat yourself to a slice of cassata cake from Presti’s Bakery. “There’s a lot to see and do and eat — definitely eat,” Moore says with a laugh.
Experience “la dolce vita” by jiving to some classic Italian tunes. The Italian Band of Cleveland performs almost every evening of the feast. With members ranging from ages 15 to 85, the band is one of many long-standing traditions for the fest. The community-focused music group also plays in front of the homes of elderly Little Italy residents who are unable to walk down and enjoy the festival at street-level. “It’s an Italian tradition to add music to all our other traditions,” Moore says. “It is a celebration of the Italian heritage.”
While the feast’s celebration of culture, religion and hospitality draws thousands of people with Italian heritage to Little Italy each year, all are welcome. Experience the significance of Italian culture from an insider’s perspective by enjoying delicious food, lively music and feeling like part of the family. “It has become a neighborhood festival in addition to the religious festival,” Moore says. “Anyone is welcome to attend. Enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the food.”