Saturday, September 09, 2006


We haven’t been to many sagras this summer, mostly because it’s been so damned cold, especially in August. Sagras are held all over Italy, mostly in the summer, but also in the spring and fall, often to celebrate the arrival of a fruit, vegetable, or other food. Basically these are just an excuse for people to get together, to eat and socialize.

They’re not at all like church picnics in the states…there are no cake wheels or bingo games, no ring toss games or other excuses to spend money for the chance to get a cheap stuffed animal or a homemade cake. Italian sagras are all business: food and conversation, and sometimes music is thrown in so that dancing can be included too. Additionally sagras can last up to ten days, encompassing two weekends.

Sagras are usually advertised with posters in the area, and sometimes we’ll see ads in the local papers or fliers at the bar. We picked up one a few weeks back advertising a sagra that featured a different musical group each evening. One of the groups was the Erika Mastrini Band, the group that features three girls from San Venanzo.

The other night, Thursday, Art said “hey, tonight’s the night that the Erika Mastrini is playing in San Elena, let’s go!” We headed out about 8:30 or so, knowing that nothing would start any earlier. We knew that although the food would be ready, the band wouldn’t start playing until 9:30 at the earliest. We had gone to this same town last year and had a lot of fun watching everyone dancing. Couples seemed to just swirl around the floor, time after time, moving as a group.

As we approached San Elena, we knew that something was very wrong. No cars lined the road approaching the town; no lights were on, no sign of activity. Well, we either had the wrong night or the wrong town. Art was positive that the flier he’s read (still sitting on the kitchen table) lists the Erika Mastrini Band as playing on the 7th. Okay, so we must have the wrong town. Maybe the sagra was in Olmeto, a bit further down the road.

As we approached Olmeto we saw the huge banner hanging over the roadway. YES! We’d found the right sagra! We parked in the huge field just across the street from the festivities, and just as we crossed the road and stepped onto the area used as a dance floor, the electricity went out!

There was a full moon and an few emergency lights, so there wasn’t complete darkness, but we knew what this really meant: no food could be ordered or served because everything is done by computer! I decided to stay in the line to order food and Art went in search of a table. We figured the lights would be back on in a few minutes.

After ten or fifteen minutes, someone came around telling us that it would just be five or ten minutes more. Fifteen minutes after that announcement a man came around again, saying that it would only be another five minutes or so.

Art had discovered that there we a lot of people who had ordered before the lights when out…once the electricity was restored, there’d be a huge backlog. Additionally I’d discovered that the line to order wasn’t really a line….everyone had a number, and once I found out about the system, I grabbed one….we were number 49….but it was impossible to know what number they’d been serving when everything went black.

As I stood near the ordering booth I passed the time by people watching. I noticed a few people on the stage, and I hoped that once the electricity was restored the music would start as planned. As I looked more closely, I saw that one of the people on stage was a man. Additionally the stage, already set up for the bank, complete with instruments, held several saxophones. The Erika Mastrini band, all women, doesn’t use saxophones, they use an accordion and a keyboard!

I walked back to where Art was sitting and told him that the band wasn’t who we thought it was. With the lights still out, the prospect of the kitchen being way backed up and the band not being the one we’d come to hear we decided to cut our losses and head back home.

As we drove into San Venanzo we noticed that there were a lot of people out, but on a warm summer evening this wasn’t too surprising. And then we saw it….the parade, or procession, I guess. The entire town was marching down the street, including the marching band. Who knew?!!! We’d been searching all over for some entertainment and here it was, right in our own town!

The following evening there was another procession, and we were able to watch this one from our living room window. First all the men, then the band. Then the priests, reciting prayers, and men carrying banners with pictures of saints and Mary, then all the women and children. This procession was honoring Mary, specifically Madonna Liberatrice.

Later we heard music coming from the main street and decided to investigate. Tables were set up in the courtyard beside the church and there was food galore….porchetta, focaccia, Vin Santo and cantucci. We saw familiar faces and Armando motioned for us to sit with him. The music we’d heard turned out to be one man singing accompanied by another man on an electronic keyboard…and they sounded really good!

Armando told us that there would be fireworks later, so I walked back up to the house to get my camera. I thought maybe I’d be able to take pictures by the war memorial, but the two streetlights there convinced me otherwise. Eventually we ended up in the park behind our house, but I still had to shoot in between some trees.

Just like two years ago, the fireworks were spectacular! I LOVELOVELOVE fireworks, and come from Louisville where we have the largest fireworks show in the world each April during “Thunder Over Louisville”. Although this show was much shorter than “Thunder”, these were some of the most amazing fireworks I’ve ever seen….and I saw fireworks that I’ve never seen at “Thunder” or anywhere else. Huge explosions of golden sparkles that just kept mushrooming larger and larger, again and again and again.


At 9/09/2006 10:19:00 PM , Blogger Bob and Rosemary said...

Dear Art & Barbara,
Just finished reading about your sagra night! How fun to have it go right by your window. It's interesting how these things can be happening right under our noses but sometimes we are not aware of them. That's been one of the biggest challenges, finding out what's going on, what the schedule is, where it is, etc. Like the locals "just know" these things! I'm happy you found it and loved the fireworks!! I am also a huge fan of the fireworks. Maybe when we go home we'll have to go to your home town to see Thunder.
Rosemary & Bob


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