90th Fallon ‘festa’ this weekend
The 90th annual Fallon Portuguese Festa is Saturday-Sunday and open to the public, honoring the Portuguese Queen Saint Isabella’s sacrifice for her people’s hunger.
Festivities commence with a dance Saturday at 8 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Church. The traditional crowning of the young queens will start at 9 p.m., with “linguisa” (a smoked pork sausage) on rolls served at 10 p.m. The dance is $5 (ages 12 and under are free) and serves as a fundraiser for the following year’s event.
A parade begins at 10:45 a.m. Sunday from the former West End Elementary School, to the church. During the traditional mass at 11 a.m., there is a crowning of the senior queen by the previous year’s queen as well as a special blessing.
Afterward, attendees may head over to the parish hall for complimentary Azores-style “sopas” or a meal of meat and bread that includes broth, cabbage, potatoes, pickles, olives and more.
“It’s exciting this year, being it’s our 90th year!” said one of the longtime organizers Stephanie Hamlin, whose daughter Kenna was last year’s senior festa queen.
The Azores are an island cluster west of Portugal. In the late 1200s when famine ravaged the islands and mainland Portugal, Queen Isabella prayed to the Holy Spirit for days and offered her crown as a sacrifice for her people.
The festa’s church procession during mass is to re-enact the queen taking her crown jewels to the altar. (The crown used is loaned from the Churchill County Museum.)
The story continues that on the morning of the Pentecost Sunday, the Azores people saw in the sunrise a ship coming into port laden with food.
Since then, all over the world, Portuguese communities and their friends continue to commemorate the answered prayers with thanksgiving.
Fallon is home to a number of Portuguese families, some of whom originally immigrated in the 1870s to the area to ranch, farm, mine and operate businesses. The immigrants became dairy industry leaders and by the early 1930s, their presence in Churchill County turned the annual festa into a major local event. These families have also made many additional significant contributions to the area’s cultural, linguistic, agricultural and commercial heritages.
“It’s just wonderful; that’s the tradition,” Hamlin said of the event that also includes a fundraising auction. “Just come.”
Hamlin said another great aspect is the queens bake something to auction, such as a cake or cupcakes, which also helps fundraise. She said it’s entertaining because it’s fathers outbidding fathers and uncles running it up on their brother, or a grandfather buying the item.
“It’s really fun to see,” she said laughing.
Whether it’s Saturday night at the dance, she continued, or during the day on Sunday after the parade, eating sopas, or the auction, it’s a fantastic tradition with all ages welcome and multiple family generations represented and participating.
Senior Festa Queen Makenna’s bio
My name is Makenna Faye Hanks, and I am a 15-year-old freshman at Nevada Virtual Academy. I have played many sports including softball, track and soccer being my favorite! I love to hunt, fish, camp, visit the ocean and sing. I spend my weekends babysitting and enjoy hanging out with my friends and family. I plan on attending an Oregon University to become a forensic pathologist. My family is from the Azores Islands of Terceira on my Papa Dan’s side. His parents, my great-grandparents Frank and Mary Alegre were full Portuguese. My parents are Jay and Stefanie Hanks, my little brother is Aspen Hanks, and my grandparents are Dan and Noni Alegre. I am privileged and honored to carry on the tradition of our Portuguese heritage to our family and community. Please join our celebration!
Junior Queen Kaitlynn’s bio
Hi, my name is Kaitlynn Hoffman. I am 11 years old and in the fifth grade. I go to Numa Elementary and Mr. Wickware is my teacher. For fun I like to play basketball, volleyball, hunt, fish and play with my horses. I am also involved in 4-H, where I showed my pig named Blue. I am the daughter of David and Kristy Hoffman. My paternal grandparents are Debbie Hoffman and the late Alan Hoffmann. My maternal grandparents are Mike and Terri Calleas. My great-grandparents are Frank and Kaye Soares. I am 1/8 Portuguese. My great-great-great-grandparents Soares and Gomes both came from the Flores Island Azores. I am very excited to be this year’s Junior Queen.
Mini Festa Queen Lila Mae’s bio
I am Lila Mae Montero. I am five years old. I have three turkeys. Their names are Goofy, Donald and Mickey. I like to do soccer and dance. I am in kindergarten at Oasis Academy. My great-great grandfather Antonio Damazio came to the United States from Portugal when he was 19 years old. His wife, my great-great grandmother Edith, came from the Azores. Their son, John Souza Damazio, lived in Fallon for 40 years. I am very excited to be this year’s Mini Queen.