CLEVELAND (WJW) – The Feast of the Assumption in Little Italy is one of the longest running and most popular community events in Cleveland. This year marks the 124th anniversary of “The Feast,” celebrating Jesus’ mother Mary.

“We’re doing this to honor our blessed mother, her assumption into heaven,” Father Joseph Previte said. “We’re doing this to honor God, and all the blessing he gives to us.”

The Feast is packed with food, music and thousands of people.

“Just like you’d celebrate a wedding feast, we’re celebrating the feast of heaven and earth, with Mary going up into heaven,” Previte said. “So of course we’d celebrate it with food. Italians enjoy our food, so we celebrate with a lot of it.”

WJW photo

The Feast’s annual procession started before noon on Tuesday:

Jim Mendolera is born and raised in Cleveland, but moved to Florida a little over a decade ago. But he still makes the trip up every year to continue his family’s strong tie that spans five-generations.

“It’s like a pilgrimage almost because the Blessed Mother means a lot to me and it’s my way of thanking her and being blessed for what I have and my family,” Mendolera said.

But there is no shortage of folks having a good time.

“I’m a young man, I came here for the ladies,” patron Tyre Talley said.

“We start off with the good drinks, gotta have good drinks,” Fox 8 viewer Carlos Colon said. “Then we get a big cigar, home rolled, real nice. And then we get the food.”

Not only is the Feast a celebration of being Catholic and Italian, it’s also a big boost for local businesses and vendors who come every year.

“We’re all vendors, all neighbors, you know we really all pull for each other, No. 1,” Mayfield Smoke Shop Co-Owner Bill Batters said. “No. 2, it’s very good for the area, as far as Little Italy and Cleveland, Ohio.”

“This is my neighborhood and I love it, born, raised,” Mayfield Smoke Shop Co-Owner Nicole Batters said.

The Feast continues through Tuesday night. Everything concludes after a candlelight procession up Mayfield Road at 9 p.m. More information can be found here.