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Local Tricarico Club Celebrates The Crowning Of New Queen
by Cookie Curci
On June 12th, the Tricarico Men's Social Club, in association with the Maria Di Fonti Ladies club, hosted their annual picnic honoring their patron Saint Maria. The celebration was held at Willow Glen's Assumption of Mary Croatian Catholic church in San Jose, Ca. The festivities included barbecued chicken, with all the trimmings. As always, a bountiful aroma of mouth-watering flavors filled the air at the Italian- American festival. Homemade favorites such as, Ficassia (a rolled dough filled with tomato sauce and spices) Calzoni, a pocket style bread, filled with onions and olives, is served on warm wooded trays. Baskets of bread sticks that have been deep fried in hot oil and dusted generously with sugar are passed from table to table. Tangy garlic and pimento salads, pungent dried black olives, fried green peppers and sausages. Mustard greens, wild ones, if anyone is lucky enough to find a patch and "skerped," a deep fried bread dough.
Every table featured a different culinary treat. The fragrance of garlic and smoky grilled chicken and steak permeated the open air and stirred our appetites and memories. Every family brought a basket brimming with favorite foods.
At Steve and Angie Scaglione's table was a delicious array of pizza bread, and homemade wine cookies. Mary Dicarlo celebrated her birthday with a huge layer cake, enough to feed all… But aside from all this wonderful cuisine, it was the crowning of the club's new queen that drew members to this traditional feast. A queen is chosen every year from among club member's families. An early morning High Mass kicked off the festivities, after which the queen was crowned in ancient ritual.
Last year's Queen was on hand to pass her sparkling bejeweled tiara to the newest queen, Sharee Ramos. After Sharee was presented with bouquets of roses she promptly lead the club members in a procession that symbolized the same ritual held every year in the town of Tricarico Italy. (Club members must be descendants, or married to descendants, of those born in Tricarico, Italy.)
The festival, observed in June of every year, originated, centuries ago, in the little town of Tricarico, Italy, and has remained remarkably unchanged throughout the generations.
In 1939, Ann Vincequerra was the first young girl to be crowned queen of the Tricarico men's social club. The event marked the beginning of the clubs locally held celebration. As the lucky young lady to be chosen first queen, Ann remembers with pride and nostalgia the day she wore the crown. "I was dressed all in white, with veil to match. On my head, I wore a huge tiara of glittering rhinestones. A white robe lined in red satin completed the royal ensemble. My mama and papa were bursting with pride," recalls Ann. It was, and still is, considered a family honor to have your child chosen as queen of the Tricarico club picnic celebration. Today, some 65 years later, Ann Vincequerra remains an active member in the Maria Di Fonti Ladies club. Ann's son, Leo Vincequerra, longtime member of the Tricarico men's social club, is the proprietor of the Willow Street Market. The market supplies clubs; restaurants and local residents with traditionally made Italian sausages and delicacies. "You never have to wear a 'kiss me, I'm Italian button' around here," says Ann Vincequerra. "We're an animated group of people who love to hug and kiss--one big happy family." Music, hugs and family smiles abounded on this wonderful sun filled afternoon.
Baskets of homemade treats and bread sticks that have been deep fried in hot oil and dusted generously with sugar are passed from table to table. Tangy garlic and pimento salads, pungent dried black olives, fried hot green peppers, sausages and tasty mustard greens are served in huge platters. Mary Dicarlo recalls when her sons and grandsons were youngsters and how they all took part in the club's annual picnic celebrations at Soda Springs. "I always felt good that my boys were a part of something so special. They joined the long procession line of men and boys dressed in dark suits with white shirts and ties. They proudly carried the statue of Mary, the club's patron saint, high upon their shoulders." Now their children participate in this same traditional ceremony and honored procession. "The third generation of children are all grown up now, with children of their own," says Maria DiFonti club president, Chris Franscio. "But they all still reserve some time in their busy schedules to attend club meetings and activities."
The ladies club was formed in 1946. The men's club originated in 1934. Many of the early members of the club were among the young immigrants to make that long sea voyage from the little town of Tricarico and settle in the Santa Clara valley. They found work on valley ranches and in the local canneries, where they earned three cents for every bucket of tomatoes they peeled and five cents for every bucket.
I remember asking my Italian grandparents how they found the courage to make that long journey of a lifetime across the seas. Their answer was always the same. It's an Old Italian saying, translated it goes something like this: "A ship is safe in port, but that's not where a ship was meant to be.... It's meant to ride the high seas, fight the elements and risk being sunk, desire alone just doesn't make it".
In a constantly changing world, where few things remain the same, this group of dedicated Italian men and women, of Tricarico descent, have continued to preserve the beliefs and traditions inspired by their old world ancestors, centuries ago, in the little village town of Tricarico, Italy.
To this day, their inspiration gives us our wings while their traditions and heritage anchor us to the valley.
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