Teams Attempt to Climb ‘Greasy Pole’ at Annual Festival
CLEVELAND — It’s a Labor Day Tradition that’s been going strong for 98 years. The St. Rocco’s Festival in Cleveland wrapped up in grand style with everybody’s favorite attraction.
Seven teams of five guys tried to climb up that telephone pole lined with grease all in hopes of bringing home $1,000.00 at the 98th annual St. Rocco Festival.
“It’s a true tradition in the Cleveland ethnic community,” said Cleveland resident Erich Hooper.
Just as old as the festival itself, is the biggest attraction at the Festival–the Greasy Pole Climb.
“It’s an old Italian tradition,” said referee Dom Madonia
Seven-teams battled the greased pole.
“Basically build a human-ladder with a team of five,” said Angel Torres of Cleveland.
In this competition, strength and toughness is secondary.
“No matter how strong you are or how tough you think you are, the grease takes it out of you all the time,” Torres added.
“You gotta have technique before strength, pure strength won’t win it,” said Brian Dempsey of Cleveland.
Some of these teams train year round for this event.
“We do all kind of strong man stuff push-ups, sit-ups, we pick each other up,” Torres said. “We climb up each other’s back during the normal part of the year.”
This event draws more than just the competitors. The entire festival comes to a complete stop just to watch the teams climb the greased pole.
“This is just something that is very out of the ordinary to see people climbing up a greasy pole,” Hooper said.
“Now, it’s become a neighborhood competition,” said Madonia.
It took three rounds and 45 minutes and when it was over it was the two-time defending champs bringing home a three-peat.
“I went one lower than the second round and I sent the other guy up to the fifth spot and I trusted in my main man who has been with me for years to finish it and it worked,” said Dempsey.
For the ninth overall time Dempsey and his team once again claimed the grand prize.
“It’s not about the money, it’s about the bragging rights.”
All of the proceeds raised at the festival will benefit the school and church of St. Rocco’s.