LODI, N.J. -- Continuing a century-old Labor Day tradition, “cooperation, unity, happiness and holiness” were themes of this weekend's annual St. Joseph Feast in Lodi.
Membership has shifted toward Filiponos, evidenced by a Mass attended by 300 this afternoon in English, Italian and Tagalog.
But the church's pastor, the Rev. Teodoro Kalaw, said the 101-year Italian foundation has endured.
“We need to be proud of tradition. Tradition is important," Kalaw said. "How do you know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been or who you are?” he said.
Antonino S. Pollaro, the president of the St. Joseph Society, cited a return of several Italian carnival activities and vendors.
Sicilian immigrants held the first outdoor feast at St. Joseph's in 1914. They chose the Labor Day weekend because their saint -- Jesus Christ's stepfather -- was a carpenter known as the patron of workers.
With the possible exception of one of two others in the New York metropolitan area, the Lodi St. Joseph's feast is considered the oldest in the U.S.
The three days this weekend included carnival rides, food vendors -- and, as always, the statue of their saint adorned with money pulled through neighborhood streets by members of the St. Joseph Society, accompanied by the Michael Aromando-led Metropolitan Festival Band.
Although temperatures pushed past the mid-80s, some agreed it beat last year's rainstorm.
Generations of family members who've worked at Palumbo Esposito Sausage were back in their red shirts -- sons, grandchildren, sisters, brothers and in-laws sweating in the hot and humid tent as they slung sausage and pepper sandwiches.
“I don’t think the cousins would have known each other today without the festival," said Dennis Esposito, the 72-year-old son-in-law of founder Charles Palumbo Sr. "Tradition helped keep the family unit intact.”