The Giglio last year (courtesy of OLMC Feast)

The annual Italian-American celebration that has taken place for the past 116 years in Williamsburg, the Feast of Our Lady Mount Carmel and San Paolino di Nola, kicked off last night and runs through July 21st.

The most storied event during the annual celebration is the hoisting of the four-ton Giglio (taking place this Sunday) which requires over 300 volunteers to carry the decorated tower and attached stage that in the past has held a 10-piece brass band.

Courtesy of OLMC Feast

For the first time in the events’ history a shortage of volunteers to carry the Giglio was reported by CBS last month.;

With the decline in Williamsburg’s Italian population over recent decades, which the NY Times notes is “down from more than 50 percent in the 1950s,” a call for “hipsters” to join in on the Giglio procession this year has filled approximately 80 vacant spaces:


Joining the paranza — the lifting team of about 300 men — had for 116 years been a sacred and exclusive rite of passage, passed down from father to son.

But this year, for the first time, organizers issued an open invitation for new volunteers, asking for outsiders to join the paranza in a neighborhood where gentrification has reshaped the once-predominantly Italian enclave.

What began last March as a brainstorming session by feast organizers turned into a word-of-mouth recruitment campaign, and by last spring, it had spread to social media.

An old-world tradition met a modern networking staple.

Eighty new volunteers have registered since May to help lift thefour-ton giglio and a life-size sculpture of a boat. This brings the group to a robust — all male — 360.

Tonight the children’s Giglio is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at Our Lady of Mount Carmel (275 N 8th St.) with a rain date for Friday (7/12). Checkout the official schedule for more info on this years’ feast.

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