I attended the Festa, this Sunday in Princeton where people from throughout the Sacramento Valley celebrated their Portuguese heritage and culture. This was the 101st Princeton Festa. A Festa is festival and religious event that goes back 700 years to honor Queen Isabel of Portugal who was generous to the poor during the great famine. Many of the attendees and residents of this area can trace their Portuguese roots back to Azores where Festas are still a tradition.
I arrived at the Princeton Portuguese Hall to see a large number of volunteers cooking, getting ready for the parade to Mass, and getting everything in order. Soon the Queens, Little Queens and Side Maids of the Princeton, Orland, Willows, and Chico Festas began to arrive, including this year’s Princeton Queen Allison Argo, daughter of Stacy and Cynthia Agro, area rice farmers.
The Festa started with the parade to Mass, with people lining the street to see the procession that is lead by Parade Marshall Jerry Cardoso, who has been doing this for many years. The queen is crowned during mass and then the procession parades back to the hall, where lunch is served.
The meal is a traditional feast of roast beef, sopas, and potato salad, which is served during lunch and dinner to over 1,000 people. A local farmer had donated all of the beef that was prepared in special ovens and stoves. They started heating the ovens with a wood fire on Friday. What was most impressive is that the meal was served family-style with a well-coordinated effort of volunteers of all ages.
Following lunch, an auction was held, dancing took place, and – most important – an opportunity to visit among neighbors and friends. It was a great gathering of people carrying on a tradition of the “old country” where all were welcomed.