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May 27, 2011 06:00 AM

Ethnic Festivals Boston Area Summer 2011

This weekend is the first Brazilian Festa Junina at Santo Antonio in Cambridge and next weekend (6/3-5) is the Arlington Greek Festival, favored by many hounds because they roast lamb on a spit. Many of the Portuguese Social Clubs in the area have festivals with traditional foods and there is the Blessed Sacrament (Madeira Festival) in Fall River which is the largest in the area. Cambridge Mayfair (this weekend), Riverfest (??) and Carnival (September) usually both have some ethnic foods. Later in the summer the Serbian church on Rt 16 in Cambridge has a festival which also includes lamb on a spit. And the Lowell Folk Festival (7/29-31) and other festivals in the Lowell Area (Riverfest is 6/11) have ethnic food. In August there is the Dominican parade and festival at Franklin Park. Lastly there are the North End Processions and Feasts which vary in their chowish-ness, as well as the Cosmas and Damian the weekend after Labor Day in East Cambridge. That same weekend is usually the Brazilian "7th of September" festival in a local park. I am going to post the list of Greek Festivals and Festas Juninas separately so this topic doesn't open with a full page post, but keep in mind that on future visits you'll need to expand informational posts below to get the dates.

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  1. SerbFest at Saint Sava's Church (mentioned above as "the Serbian church on Rt 16 in Cambridge") is usually mid-September - I just checked their website, but there's nothing yet. My guess would be 9/16-18.

    The Boston Dragon Boat Festival will be Sunday, June 12, on the Charles River near the Weeks Footbridge (just outside of Harvard Square.) They usually get a bunch of food trucks/booths - not too much really notable in the way of eats, but there are usually some tasty zongzi to be had.

    The Lowell Southeast Asian Water Festival will be Saturday, August 20. I haven't made it up there yet, but it sounds great.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Allstonian

      Just a reminder about St. Sava's Serbian festival this weekend 9/16-18 in Cambridge.

      1. re: Taralli

        Perfect weather for it too! Thanks for the reminder!

        1. re: yumyum

          Ended up stopping by St. Sava Serbian festival on Sunday. It was great! It's a tiny little fest with a focus on roast meat plates and cevapcici (or cevapi if you prefer).

          You could get these yummy little sausages 5 at a time in a sandwich constructed of some very good Iggy's bread with roasted peppers, tomatoes, onions and a tangy pepper spread, made with feta. The lamb plates looked quite poor but the roasted pork plate was yummy, as were the little tastes offered to us by the guy who cooked it on a spit before we arrived. Really, he was so nice when I expressed interest in his pig -- he offered a bit of cracklin and then kept giving us nibbles. We waited a while for the pig to rest and get sliced up and finally got a plate to share. Came with a mountain of roasted peppers, more onions, and rice pilaf (Near East box style). We supplemented with a decent cheese pie.

          It's not a big deal like the Greek festivals around town -- no jumpy castle for kids, no crafts for sale -- but I've been wanting to go to this festival forever and am so glad I got to try it this year. I'd definitely go back.

          1. re: yumyum

            For the record, there _was_ a jumpy castle hidden around the side of the church, and there were at least two "crafts" for sale. My wife and daughter were unimpressed by the food, but I liked the sausage, lamb and the salty huge-bean thing. Agree that the rice and slaw were undistinguished.

            1. re: glenn mcdonald

              They hid that jumpy castle well -- usually you can find it by following the shrieking!

              What crafts did they have? I admit I was focused on the pig.

            2. re: yumyum

              You lucked out getting hot food right off the spit. I lucked out at the Arlington Greek fest the same way, but not at 1pm on Saturday at the Serb Fest. Pork we got was ice cold as were the roasted peppers - like they'd just been taken out of the fridge. We were also really looking forward to their non-mayo potato salad with sliced onions & were really disappointed with the non-descript pilaf substitute. 1st time we've ended up with cold food. Sausages were good, as was the cheese pie & we slathered everything in the spicy red pepper spread. We pined for the pig that was spinning around on the grill as we left.

              1. re: yumyum

                you must have arrived at the right time

                a group of us went on saturday afternoon. we weren't fortunate enough to have any freshly sliced roast pig. instead we were given a plate of cold roast pork with rubbery skin. another disappointment was that they didn't have any serbian-style potato salad this year. the cevapi, however, were delicious

        2. Here is the list of 2011 Festas Juninas and Julinas which I was able to get directly from the Brazilian Apostolate of the Catholic Church of Boston (link below) -- much easier than compiling it in the past.


          5/28 Sat. Cambridge -- Santo Antonio 5pm - 10pm (or 11
          )400 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue
          Church at corner of Cambridge and Cardinal Medeiros, festival on church patio at back.

          6/4 Sat. Everett "Arraiá do Tonhão" 5-11pm
          Igreja Santo Antônio
          38 Oakes St

          6/5 Sun Rockland 5pm-10pm(?)
          Igreja Sagrada Família
          403 Union St

          6/11 Sat. Allston 5-11pm
          Igreja Santo Antônio
          43 Holton St
          (This used to be multiple days but I think starting in 2010 they went to just the Saturday.)

          6/18 Sat Stoughton 5pm - 10pm (?)
          Igreja Imaculada Conceição
          122 Canton St

          6/18 Sat Lowell 5pm - 10pm(?)
          Paróquia Sagrada Família
          75 Chamberlain St

          6/25 Sat Somerville - 5pm-11pm
          Igreja Santo Antônio
          480 Somerville Avenue

          7/9 Sat East Boston - 6pm-10pm(?)
          Santuário Madonna Queen
          150 Orient Ave
          (This used to be an indoor festival, but I believe they have moved it outside)

          7/16 Sat Holliston - 5pm-10pm(?)
          Santuário Nossa Senhora de Fátima
          101 Summer Street

          The Framingham Festa Junina is generally organized by the Woodrow Wilson School PTO, but I do not know the date as of this posting. They moved it to the school year, I believe last year it was in September. There sometimes one in Peabody, but last year I couldn't confirm one.

          2 Replies
          1. re: itaunas

            The Festas Juninas are organized around days for certain saints from the Catholic Chuch, drawing from traditions in Europe especially with the Festa Sao Joao (John). Because of the timing of the festivals (late autumn in Brazil) and the popularity of the festivals in the Northeast (where droughts are common and the tie to the religious aspect of the festivals is strongest), harvest foods play a large role in the celebrations, particularly food based around corn. Although the tradition is strongest in the Northeast, the festas and some of the cultural traditions are celebrated all over Brazil. In the Northeast there are huge festivals lasting weeks and drawing tourists, but also religious pilgrimages. In other parts of the Interior (such as Minas Gerais) they are celebrated on a town level and there especially festas juninas have stretched into festas julinas. And in many parts of Brazil schools teach the children some of the traditional dances and the schools hold their own festas juninas. Sao Joao is often thanked for a successful harvest, Sao Pedro asked for rain in the following year, and Santo Antonio in request for true love.

            In Boston most of the Festas Juinas are organized around Brazilian parishes of the Catholic Church. Usually its individuals associated with the parish do the organizing (in some of the older parishes some members can be approaching 20 years in the community, but priests rotate). Whether the parish itself does the cooking can vary: most of the older ones do most of their cooking (Allston, Somerville, East Boston, etc), but some rent out spaces. There also are "festas caipiras" out of season (fora de epoca) and other arraiais (the arraial is the location of a festa juninas) including ones associated with local businesses, but year in and year out, its specific Brazilian parishes which carry on the traditions. In general these events do serve as fund raisers for the parish or possibly some cause associated with it, but are more of a community event than a religious event. As mentioned below in Framingham where there are the most Brazilian students the PTO of the Woodrow Wilson School usually organizes a festa junina, much like schools in Brazil do.

            As I mentioned food is only one aspect of the festa junina tradition. There is often a band, couples dance quadrilhas (Brazilian square dances, with a caller and the costumes), and usually a country wedding which can be humorous. I believe these festivals are chowish because of the strong role of the food traditions and some dishes which are hard to try elsewhere. That said if you go only for the chow, there is a chance of being disappointed. And Somerville in particular, the block party aspect to it can completely overrun the chow/traditions. I don't believe any festas serve a Quentao anymore (and its out of season), a few offer beer which will either be macrobrews or perhaps sponsored by a Brazilian brew (schincariol/nova schin and brahma have in the past) . Allston is one I like to recommend because its got a strong parish behind it which makes their own foods, without the total craziness of Somerville. In general Saturday night festas start between 5 and 7pm, closing somewhere from 11-midnight (sometimes 10 depending on local towns). Sunday festas start around 2-3pm and can go as late as 9. Everett is another strong community, as well as East Boston and these are fairly family oriented.

            Not all the foods you will run into are specific to festas juninas, some are not even Brazilian but here are some common offerings.

            Corn based offerings

            Espiga de milho verde (corn on the cob)
            canjicao (semi-sweet dish made with milk and hominy, with cinnamon)
            canjica (stew of grits often served with ribs and collard greens)
            pamonha (brazilian version of tamale, both sweet and savory versions exist)
            mingau de milho verde (brazilian style creamed corn, also with cinnamon and of varying sweetness) called curau in the northeast

            other brazilian dishes

            acaraje (fritters made from ground black eyed peas, associated with baianas from Bahia traditionally fried in palm oil)
            vatapa -- paste/soupe made with dried shrimp, peanuts, palm oil, coconut milk (served with acaraje and on its own)
            pimenta malageta (not a dish per-se, but request it to have your acaraje spicy)
            churrasquinho (skewers, with beef, chicken, maybe sausage and hopefully cheese)
            salgadinhos (savory treats, search on board for more descriptions) -- look for "pastel/pasteis" fried to order

            brazilian sweets

            pe-de-moleque (a brazilian peanut sweet, sort of a mix between fudge and brittle)
            cocada (fudge made with coconut and condensed milk, served as cubes)
            doce de leite (just like dulce de leche)


            Quentao -- brazilian version of a hot toddy made with lime, cinnamon, cachaca, etc (unlikely to find these days, but Trina's has a "quentão de vinho" a wine based quentão in the Winter)
            Also beer, guarana, brazilian juices, and sodas


            cachorro quente (hot dog, but distinctly brazilian with many toppings such as corn sticks sort of like x-tudo and usually cooked in a tomato broth)
            pipoca (brazilians do have pride in their own popcorn and its traditional to festa juninas, but this will be made in the usual carnaval style poppers)
            algodao doce (cotton candy)

            1. re: itaunas

              One note about Cambridge. Its a nice family festival with space to walk around and I may very well check it out. When they started it they relied on outside food vendors I think in conjunction with some items made by the parish. I don't know if that has since changed and this weekend is also the large Brazilian Rodeo at the Brockton Fairgrounds which would be competing for some of those outside food vendors. Maybe someone went last year and has an update. There definitely will be food, but this is part of the reason I suggested Allston and Everett first, East Boston tends to be a bit smaller but is a nice later-season option. Somerville is the big festival, it has the most food options, but gets really crowded and a bit rowdy late. This leads to things running out, huge lines, undercooked food. If you go there its generally best to go in the 6:30-7:30 timeframe for food and later for music/partying.

          2. Armenian Festival in Watertown, June 12, noon

            German Beerfest @ Boylston Schul-Verein Club in Walpole, June 11-12, noon

            Portuguese Feast of the Blessed Sacrament in New Bedford, Aug 4-7

            1. Greek Fest in Arlington besides lambs, includes spit-roasted pigs(which our crew really goes for): Opa! Serbian Fest at St. Sava's in Cambridge, usually, takes place in September: "Food includes spit-roasted pigs & lambs, Serbian grilled sausages (ćevapčići and pljeskavice), various side dishes, pitas, & sweets."( Ziveli!

              1. Here is a list of Greek Festivals compiled from the list on the site below with a couple of perxonal additions. Please note they list a couple of additional festivals further afield and have more details about the programming of the festivals.

                6/3 - 5 Arlington, MA
                Saint Athanasius Greek Orthodox Church, Arlington, MA
                4 Appleton Street
                Arlington, MA
                Friday, June 3 - 11am - 10pm
                Saturday, June 4 - 11am - 10pm
                Sunday, June 5 - 11am - 8pm
                Usually hounds make some arrangements to meet up at this festival because its well attended and has lamb on the spit. Please note the church moved to the Arlington Heights area a few years back, so pay attention to the address if you haven't been in a few years.

                6/10 - 12 Woburn, MA
                Annunciation of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church, Woburn, MA
                70 Montvale Avenue
                Woburn, MA 01801

                6/17 - 19 Cambridge, MA
                Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, Cambridge, MA
                Friday and Saturday: 11am - 11pm
                Sunday 11am -10pm

                14 Magazine Street
                Central Square
                Cambridge, MA

                6/18 Fitchburg, MA
                Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Fitchburg, MA

                11am - 10pm
                1319 Main Street
                Fitchburg, MA 01420

                6/24-26 Watertown, MA (not listed on
                )Taxiarchae/Archangels Greek Orthodox Church
                25 Bigelow Ave, Watertown, MA

                7/9 - 10 Ipswich, MA
                Hellenic Center, Ipswich, MA
                Hellenic Center (junction of Rts 133 and 1A
                )Ipswich, MA
                July 9th (1-11pm) and July 10th (1p-dusk)

                7/10 Southbridge, MA
                St. George Greek Orthodox Church, Southbridge, MA
                100th Anniversary Annual Picnic

                9/16 - 18 Lexington, MA
                St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Lexington, MA

                A Taste of Greece
                11:30am - 10pm
                17 Meriam Street
                Lexington, MA 02420

                The Somerville Greek Festival is not usually listed on the above site, but is usually in September one or two weeks after Labor Day. The address of the church is and you can get information from the site closer to the festival.
                Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church
                29 Central Street, Somerville MA 02143

                2 Replies
                1. re: itaunas

                  MMMMMM.. tasty Arlington Greek festival lamb.. don't go on Sunday, food starts to run out..

                  1. re: itaunas

                    Re Arlington this weekend, does anyone know what's the best time to go on Saturday or Sunday, during the day ,to be sure that the spit-roasted critters are ready to eat? Asking cuz , one time, pigs weren't done yet & had to wait like an hour+ & were lucky enough to just manage to get a plate before the whole carcass was gone. TIA.