Even Mario and Luigi seem ready for this year's St. Peter's Fiesta.
A depiction of those Super Mario game characters negotiating a Greasy Pole out the window of the Drift Cafe above Rogers Street is just one of the many colorful decorations welcoming residents and visitors to Gloucester's 92nd celebration of the patron saint of fishermen.
The celebration begins Wednesday, with five days of music, entertainment and religious tributes recognizing the city's fishing fleet and centering on St. Peter's Square in the west end of Gloucester's historic downtown. The festival, which also salutes the city's rich Italian, Sicilian, and Portuguese heritage, will, as always, include religious processions with the iconic St. Peter's statue, sporting events such as the three days of Greasy Pole walks, seine boat races and much more.
"Everything's here, we're ready," said Joseph Orlando, who serves as guardian of the St. Peter's statue and spent part of Monday morning confirming that the poles and other equipment used by the bearers to carry the saint were accounted for.
Orlando and his colleagues will take St. Peter — or, at least his statue, which dates to 1927 — on his first procession of Fiesta on Tuesday night when they return it to the St. Peter's Club. They'll close out the nine-day Novena to St. Peter by carrying the statue from its temporary home at the Lester S. Wass American Legion hall through the Fort neighborhood to the club. There, the statue and its bearers will await Friday's opening ceremonies.
Wednesday kicks off the annual run of the carnival presented by the Seabrook, New Hampshire-based Fiesta Shows, which once again brings a variety of games and rides, including a new entry called The Top Gun, says Fiesta Shows site manager Chris Chagros.
"It's about 70 feet high, it goes in kind of a loop, and turns (riders) upside down at the top," he said Monday with a touch of pride. "It's quite a ride."
Wednesday also opens the entertainment schedule with a musical performance by Barry Mooney.
Thursday features the Fiesta 5K road race, which is co-sponsored by the Cape Ann YMCA, draws hundreds of runners, and features a course that starts at Stage Fort Park, loops into the downtown and finishes in St. Peter's Square.
All of those events set the stage for Friday's opening ceremonies and the weekend festivities, which center on Sunday's Mass — to be celebrated by Bishop Mark O'Connell — the main St. Peter's procession, the sporting events and the Blessing of the Fleet.
This year's Fiesta features a few new twists, notably the addition of a Saturday morning Gloucester Stage Company presentation based on the children's book, "Nonna, What is St. Peter’s Fiesta?"
The book, authored by local Laura Alberghini Ventimiglia, is also being sold as a fundraiser for Fiesta, and will be available at the Fiesta Committee table on the grounds, said Lucia Sheehan, the committee secretary and director of the Rose Baker Senior Center. Sheehan said all of the money raised from the book's sale will go to supporting Fiesta, which costs more than $140,000 to present each year.
"We really try to bring in new things each year," Sheehan said of the Gloucester Stage performance, which will be presented Saturday at 10 a.m. at the company's Gorton's Theatre on East Main Street. "This is a wonderful book, and we're looking forward to this. It should be fun."