NEWTON, MA — For the past for 84 years summertime in Nonantum has brought with it the St. Mary of Carmen Society Festival, complete with games and music and a parade to mark the tradition. For anyone who has grown up in "The Lake," it's the community event of the year. But not this year, thanks to uncertainty about the coronavirus pandemic.
"It is with great sadness that we announce the suspension of the 2020 St Mary of Carmen Society Festival," said Charles Proia, who is the festival's chairman. "We are simply devastated."
This year will be the first time the festival has been canceled, Proia told Patch.
The St. Mary of Carmen Society began as a mutual-benefit society in the Italian neighborhood during the Great Depression to help provide disability insurance and modest death benefits to members. The festival became the primary fundraising mechanism for the organization, which now raises money for charitable donations and college scholarships for Newton students through the five-day St Mary of Carmen Festival, annual dinner and dance along with Christmas tree sales.
As of Tuesday in Newton, 665 people had tested positive for the coronavirus and 86 people had died as of May 5. Although the governor announced a four step phased outline to start reopening the commonwealth beginning May 18, much is still up in the air. Boston's July 4 celebration, which brings hundreds of thousands of people each year to the banks of the Charles River was canceled. Boston Calling, one of the area's largest multi-day music festival usually held Memorial Day weekend in Allston was canceled earlier this year and more large events may yet be canceled.
Read more: Newton City Hall Works On A Plan To Reopen
The festival, which draws about 10,000 people throughout its five days, was scheduled to take place between July 15 and 19.
"We are extremely disappointed and understand the loss of such a cherished tradition that we know will bring sadness to many," Proia said.
The society has been monitoring advice from public health officials, government agencies and other similar organizations and ultimately concluded it would be too difficult to safely hold this event this year.
"For 84 years the festival has brought us together to celebrate our shared traditions and heritage," Proia said. "This pandemic has certainly pointed out how important a sense of community is, and we hope that we can celebrate together in the future."
The plan is to continue raising money to help support people who have been affected by the pandemic. The organization will also be putting up pole banners and painting the lines on Adams Street as a symbol of what would have been.
"We will continue to monitor the situation over the summer and hope to have some celebrations when they can be safely enjoyed by all," Proia said.
Patch reporter Jenna Fisher can be reached at Jenna.Fisher@patch.com or by calling 617-942-0474. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@ReporterJenna).Have a press release you'd like posted on the Patch? Here's how to post a press release, opinion piece.