Preparing for Giglio: Our Christmas in July

Are you ready for zeppoles? Sausage and peppers? Carnival Games? And an 80-foot 2-ton tower that dances down Havemeyer Street that is lifted on the backs of the faithful in the humid heat of the summer?

Giglio will be here soon!

First things first: Do you know how to say Giglio?

Say it with me: Gee – Lee – Oh!

This 12-day festival doesn’t just magically appear in July. The planning starts in September when an executive board meets and discusses the pros and cons of past Gigilios and how to improve and grow with the next one. They meet monthly then weekly and more frequently as the feast nears. This is a major fundraiser for the Our Lady of Mount Carmel church who took charge of the feast in the 1950s. In addition there is also a spiritual aspect to the festival: right after the mass for Our Lady of Mount Carmel when her statue is placed in the grotto next to the church, this is the official start of the Giglio Feast, and when the statue is returned to the church a dozen days later the feast has officially ended. Parish Deacon Phil Franco runs the shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel where in addition to spiritual contemplation there will be literature to welcome newcomers to the church, religious articles made available for sale, and some devotees will pin donations to the statue’s ribbons. Deacon Franco is also the emcee of the Giglio lifts.

Deacon Phil Franco and Apprentice Capo Joe Cicileo, both in their 40s, have been participating in the feast since they were kids. They generously made themselves available to answer my questions about Giglio. When asked for his thoughts on Giglio,  Joe Cicileo said, “Giglio Sunday is our Christmas in July!”

Wait! Did you say Lifts … PLURAL? How many lifts are there?

There are 4 lifts (2 major lifts and 1 each for the children and old timers): Chlidren’s Lift is 6pm on July 7th; Giglio Sunday Lift is 2pm on July 10th; The Night Lift is 8pm on July 13th; and the Old Timer’s Lift is 2pm on July 17th

How heavy is the tower (or the boat for that matter)? The tower is made out of aluminum with a Papier-mâché covering. The lilies. That is what “Giglio” means, it means lilies, which are the Italian version of the France’s fleur de lys. Iconic images also grace the outer façade of the tower. The tower is heavier on its own, and it fits less people than the boat does. Final Answer: They are both extremely heavy! However as Joe Cicileo (who has been a lifter) said, “ The first couple of lifts don’t feel that heavy, but that last lift—it’s the heaviest of them all!”

Who is the Capo?

There is a new Capo Number One selected every 2 years. He is a parish member who has been active in the church and goes through a nomination and election process. During his 2-year term he selects the color scheme on the Giglio tower. During the lift he directs the lifters during their carry through the street. Intro Capos also help with crowd control.

Who is the Turk?

A parish member plays the role of the Turk, who saved Nola’s Bishop Paulino from slavery. The selection process is similar to that of the Capo. The Turk tends to be younger but can be in his fifties.

What is new at this year’s Giglio?

The boat is brand new this year. In addition there is also a new partnership with Brooklyn Arts Council who will be emphasizing the folk art and music aspects of the feast. They will host a night of Italian folk music.

The Giglio Feast is on Havemeyer Street from North 9th to North 6th Streets, with rides, games, and more booths on the side streets. The festival closes each night at 11pm. And the schedule of events are as follows: July 6th 2016 6pm | OPENING NIGHT; July 7th 2016 6pm | Children’s Giglio Lift; July 9th 2016 10am| La Questua; July 10th 2016 2pm | GIGLIO SUNDAY; July 13th 8pm | Giglio Night Lift; July 17th 2pm | Old Timer’s Day Giglio Lift; also don’t forget to stop into the grotto.

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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