Festa celebrates Portuguese traditions

A parade of royalty and pageantry, followed by Mass at Princeton’s St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and two community meals, highlighted the annual Holy Ghost and Saint Anthony festival last Sunday.

The yearly Portuguese Festa honors both Queen Isabel of Portugal, a 13th century monarch who prayed for the end of a famine that was killing her people, and Saint Anthony of Padua, also known as Anthony of Lisbon, one of the Catholic Church’s most popular and beloved saints.

The small Colusa County community, home to Princeton’s Portuguese Hall, which was built in 1921, has held the important annual tradition for well over a century.

About 135 Portuguese festivals are held each year in California, a tradition brought largely from the Azorean Islands, from which most of California’s Portuguese people emigrated during the 19th century.

The Princeton Holy Ghost and Saint Anthony Festa followed the Orland Holy Ghost festival, held June 16, and Chico’s Festa, held May 20, with many in the community attending all three events.

The Festa tradition includes the crowning of a big queen and little queen, as a way to honor Queen Isabel, who is said to have prayed for divine help during a famine, after which three ships filled with grain blew off course and sailed into the Lisbon harbor.

Queen Isabel is said to have celebrated the miracle with a grand feast for the poor, during which she took her crown from her head and placed it on the head of a common girl and named her queen for the day.

“The Festa is how we celebrate our heritage and culture,” said Molly Amaro, 15, of Willows, who was crowned Princeton’s 2018 Big Queen by 2017 Queen Emily Silva, during Mass.
Amaro, who reigned over the Festa for the remainder of the day, is the daughter of Zane and Joy Amaro, and has attended the event in Princeton all of her life.

“My earliest memory (of the Festa) is being here with my family,” she said.

Amaro’s sidemaids last Sunday were Laynee Haywood, 15, daughter of Mark and Kelly Haywood, of Maxwell, and Sophie Stocks, 16, daughter of Steven and Kimberly Stocks, of Princeton.

Stocks served as Silva’s sidemaid in 2017, and has only one more year of eligibility to have her named drawn to be Festa Queen. Catholic girls of Portuguese descent dream of being Festa Queen from an early age, she said.

“I’m hoping the third time will be the charm,” Stocks said.

Bailee Haywood, 12, of Maxwell, also the daughter of Mark and Kelly Haywood, served as the 2018 Little Queen.

Haywood was crowned during Mass by 2017 Little Queen, Sydnee Wilson, 13, the daughter of Robert and Danielle Wilson, of Maxwell.

Haywood’s sidemaids were Skylar Millsaps, 13, daughter of PJ Millsaps and Amanda Philp, of Willows, and Reese Vierra, 8, daughter of Danny and Addie Vierra, of Maxwell.

Visiting royalty included 2018 Orland Festa Queen Jilliann Wilson, 16, of Maxwell, also the daughter of Robert and Danielle Wilson, with her sidemaids, Emily Mendonca, 13, daughter of Jamee and Justin Mendonca, of Chico, and Franchesca Martins, 14, daughter of Frank and Channin Martins, of Orland. Chico’s 2018 Festa Queen Teresa Mendonca, 14, daughter of Steve and Jeannette Mendonca, of Ord Bend, also attended the Princeton Festa.

The procession left the Princeton Portuguese Hall Sunday morning and made its way around the block and to St. Joseph’s Church, where the queens were officially crowned.

The parade included other real-life depictions of historical characters, including Madelyn Aldridge, 7, the daughter of Jason and Megan Aldridge, of Folsom, as Queen Isabel of Portugal. Warren Amaro, 11, of Willows, the son of Zane and Joy Amaro, of Willows, portrayed Saint Anthony of Padua, a 13th century Portuguese Catholic priest, known for his undying love and devotion to the poor and the sick.

Sunday’s Portuguese Festa in Princeton included a noon and evening meal of roast beef, sopas and potato salad, a dance, and an auction.