The cars backed all the way down Chislett Street, and the 90 degree sweltering heat did not hinder the kick-off of St. Raphael’s annual bazaar on Thursday, August 11. The celebration started off as it normally does, with a parade around the neighborhood. This year it featured Pikachu and Charmander as the Pokemon GO app continues to blow up around the world. After the parade’s conclusion, the real fun began. Thursday is always a big night of the festival, as it is the first night and everyone comes out to see what’s going on. Of course there’s the little children running around with fistfuls of quarters eagerly playing games in hopes of winning a stuffed animal or other small prize. The adults celebrate in the back with the beer garden and with live music from artists like Mike Gallagher, a country and folk artist, as well as the Iron City Slickers, a Pittsburgh based country group. Meanwhile, everyone else files into line for some great food prepared expertly by hard-working volunteers sweltering next to deep fryers, and others waiting for a funnel cake or some fried Oreos. Lastly, there are the stragglers in the flea market that is painstakingly set up every year with donations from around the neighborhood. Friday, and Saturday follow this pattern same pattern of games, music, food, and thrift shopping.
Every night, volunteers show up at 6:00 to make sure that everything is perfect by 7:00 to ensure the success of the festival which is vital in fundraising for the parish. On Sunday, the fourth and final day of the bazaar begins with the celebration of San Rocco. Everyone attends a mass said entirely in Italian, an ode to Saint Roch’s major shrine in Venice, Italy. San Rocco has become to the Italian-American residents of Morningside what St. Patrick is to the Irish-Americans or who St. Juan Diego is for Mexican-Americans. Morningside’s large population of Italian immigrants as well as first and second generation Italian-Americans makes the mass even more special for the community. The bazaar usually ends the same way it starts, with a procession of the statue of Saint Rocco through the neighborhood but because of rainy weather that threatened the last night of the bazaar, this parade did not happen.
The last day was looking towards being a flop because of rainy weather and thunder and lightning but something magical happened and that bad weather held off until after 11 PM when the celebration was over. Somehow, the rain holding over was symbolic of the entire festival. This entire community holds itself together for four days to make the bazaar a success. This bazaar is more important than the four nights of fun for the children and the money it raises for the church. It is about a community coming together and doing something so important. Morningside is a relatively small and close-knit community and this bazaar is a perfect example of that. Everyone works together for months in advance preparing and then in the last four nights to make the festival bigger and better each year. The St. Raphael bazaar has been going on for forty-four years and exemplifies the values of strong community and this is why it will continue to thrive in the next forty-four years to come.