Not everyone who attended Sunday’s Portuguese Festa in Princeton share the same ancestry, but that so many of Northern California’s “luso-americanos” are descendants of immigrants from the nine volcanic islands of the Azores, it was enough that many greeted each other as “cousin.”
“That is what we say when we see each other,” said 2019 Festa President Chris Souza, at the 2019 annual Princeton Holy Ghost and St. Anthony Festa on June 30. “It’s mostly a term of endearment.”
The Festa do Espírito Santo (Festival of the Holy Spirit) has been held in the eastern Colusa County river community for more than 100 years, and is the area’s oldest celebration of Portuguese heritage, Azorean culture, and the Catholic faith.
It’s origins center around Saint Isabella (Elizabeth) of Portugal, a 14th century queen known for her devotion to the poor and sick.
Sunday’s event included a parade of local Portuguese people, some in historical costumes, who walked from the Princeton Portuguese Hall to St. Joseph’s Church for the traditional crowning of the big and little queens during Mass, followed by two community meals of roast beef and sopas, the latter a beef broth with cabbage poured over slices of French bread.
In a tradition dating back centuries, a young woman was chosen queen for the day, something started by Queen Isabella herself at a feast celebrating the end of the great famine period (1315-1317) in Portugal.
“I have been dreaming of this ever since I was little queen 10 years ago,” said Sophia Stocks, 17, who was crowned Big Queen of the 2019 Portuguese Festa on Sunday. “I feel extremely blessed.”
Stocks is the daughter of Steven and Kimberly Stocks, of Princeton.
Stocks will be a freshman at Butte College in the fall. She graduated from Colusa High School this year, but hopes to complete her education at California State University, Chico. In addition to becoming a speech therapist, Stocks said she aspires to having some of the humbleness and generosity shown by Queen Isabella, who is a role model to young Catholic girls of Portuguese descent.
Stocks’ sidemaids at the Princeton Festa were Kate Amaro, 13, the daughter of Mark and Diane Amaro, of Willows, and Madison Fonseca, 16, of Orland, the daughter of Ben and Tristan Parkerson, and Dan and Marci Fonseca.
The procession of children and adults into the church was led by Ace Glassgow, 11, of Princeton, dressed as a priest; Jada Dillard, 11, of Chico, as Queen Isabella; and visiting royalty, including 2019 Fort Bragg Festa Little Queen Brook Sousa, 12, with sidemaid Savanna Oglesby, 11; Orland Festa Big Queen Laynee Haywood, 16, of Maxwell, with sidemaids Hannah Rock, 15, and Sarah French, 14; Orland Little Queen Jayda Corriea, 10, with sidemaids Kaitlyn Enos and Ella Rouse, both 11; Princeton’s 2018 Big Queen Molly Amaro; and 2018 Little Queen Bailey Haywood, 14, with sidemaids Skylar Millsaps, 14, and Reese Vierra, 9.
Chelsea Permann, 8, was crowned the 2019 Little Queen.
Chelsea is the daughter of Steven and Corey Permann, of Willows, and while Sunday’s Festa was the first she has attended in Princeton, Chelsea said she is already looking forward to future events and possibly being Big Queen some day.
Chelsea’s sidemaids were Analise Weststeyn, 5, the daughter of Peter and Tonya Weststeyn, of Linden, and Olivia Vasquez, 8, the daughter of Bobby and Mallorie Vasquez, of Willows.
But while Sunday’s celebration centered mostly around the crowing of the queens, the Princeton Portuguese Festa also celebrates Saint Anthony of Padua, also known as Anthony of Lisbon, one of the Catholic Church’s most popular and beloved saints.
Warren Amaro, 12, of Willows, has portrayed Saint Anthony at the Princeton Festa for four years but will likely pass the honor to another next year.
“I’m outgrowing the costume,” Amaro said.
Anthony was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on 30 May 1232, at Spoleto, Italy, less than one year after his death, He was well loved by the Portuguese Catholics, and all over the world as the patron saint for the recovery of lost items and is credited with many miracles involving lost people, lost things and even lost spiritual goods.
About 1,200 people enjoyed unlimited roast beef, sopas, and potato salad, served family-style, as they sat at long tables outside the Portuguese Hall.
In keeping with the tradition of feeding the poor, there was not a charge for the food, although donations were accepted from those who attended the event to be used to continue the tradition annually.
Area dairy and cattlemen donated the five cows, which were prepared in Princeton’s outdoor oven, with their bones used to make the broth for the sopas.
“We have never run out of food,” Sousa said. “Even when we had almost 2,000 people.”
About 150 Portuguese festas are held in California each year. ■