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Celebrating a saint with games, food and fun in Inwood

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For two days the parking lot across from Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Inwood is transformed to a fun-filled space that includes games, food and rides to celebrate Santa Marina, the patron saint of the mountain-town Filandari, Italy, and serve as a fundraiser for the Santa Marina Society.

The Santa Marina Feast is on Friday, July 12 and Saturday, July 13 from 7 p.m. to midnight by 68 Wanser Ave. Proceeds benefit the church and the society. The official Santa Marina feast day is July 17.

Oceanside resident and Santa Marina Society member Michelle Geluso, 43, has been involved with the feast since she was 16 and serves as the children’s choir director. “The origins of the modern-day feast go back to the 1950s, but the families from Filandari, Italy (including mine) immigrated to the Five Towns area in the early 20th century,” she said. “The feast was a big deal for the families.” Her involvement began when she would visit family and friends in Inwood. 

Cimato & Sons Garden Center, also in Inwood, helps setup the feast. Lifelong-Inwood resident Fran Cimato-Perna touched on the “togetherness” the feast brings to Inwood. “There is nothing else like this in Inwood,” Cimato-Perna said. “It’s like a big block party that people look forward to every year. It’s such a great community gathering event.”

One of the more popular food items is the zeppoles and Geluso has a hand in making them. “After doing it for a few years, your hand gets a feel for how they should be made,” she said jokingly. “We used to make our own dough for dough for the zeppoles until we decided to get it from pizza places and bakeries around 20 years ago.” Geluso said that Agrigento Bakery in Oceanside provides the dough. 

Lifelong Inwood resident Marina Manzo, 67, has attended the feast for most of her life. As a child, Manzo said she enjoyed seeing the other kids in the community at the feast. “Every year, I would look forward to seeing people that I usually wouldn’t see year-round,” Manzo said. “We would always get new clothes to make sure we looked our best for the feast.” 

In the past, Manzo would work the coffee and cookie booth, but the booth was discontinued in recent years. She will help collect raffle tickets this year. “The feast has been a big part of this community for my whole life,” she said. “I’m just trying to keep the tradition alive by staying involved with it.”

A Mass will be held on July 13 from 10 a.m. to noon in Our Lady of Good Counsel Church with a procession through Inwood afterwards. Donations can be pinned to a figure of Santa Marina.

Geluso said what she enjoys most about the feast is how it connects her to her roots. “I just love the tradition of the feast and how it makes me feel connected to my family’s hometown in Italy,” she said. “My generation is trying our best to keep the connection alive.”