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West Sacramento News-Ledger

San Pedro Festa Celebrates 102 Years

Jun 11, 2024 09:18AM ● By San Pedro Association News Release

Grand Marshal Ed Sequiera and brother Peter Sequiera cook Espetada de Carne. Photo courtesy of San Pedro Association

WEST SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - Celebrating 102 years of Festas, descendants of many of the original Portuguese immigrants who came to live in what was then Riverbank (Bryte, California) are carrying on the tradition with the San Pedro Festa—more lovingly known by locals as the “Portuguese Picnic.” This event is held at San Pedro Park on Saturday, June 29, and Sunday, June 30.

Beginning in 1922, these ‘Festas Padroeiras’ (folk celebrations) were held yearly on the riverbank or hosted by families with spacious backyards. Similar to the celebrations held in their homeland, the families would celebrate Saint Peter the Fisherman, their chosen patron saint. Names of many of those families that may be familiar to those in West Sacramento are Silva, Ramos, Pinto, Freitas, Jardim, Frates, Carvalho, Beata, Augustino, Sequeira, Sardine, Andrade, Cardoza, Anzore, Perreira, Carvalho, Nevis, Paulo, Neves, Rodrigues, Lawrence, Lopes, Gonsalves, Neto, Enos, Fonseca, Santos, Perry, Amaral, and Pena.

An association was formed, named the San Pedro Association (SPA). The ‘founding fathers’ of the SPA were Father Jose Jardim, Domingos Sequeira, Francis Carvalho, Noe P. Ramos, Antonio G. Silva, Arthur Lawrence, Antonio J. Pinto, Antonio P. Ramos, John Rodriques, Albino Freitas, Sn., Frank Neves and Jordan P. Ramos.  

Ryleigh Sequeira San Pedro Association

 Junior Queen Ryleigh Sequeira Smith points out the original founders of San Pedro Association on a memorial wall at San Pedro Park. Photo courtesy of San Pedro Association

As years passed, the event grew, and soon, the entire community began to attend the Festas. With the attendance at a high, they needed more space to accommodate the guests. The SPA acquired property from the Silva Family and built what is now historic San Pedro Park. Volunteers and skilled artisans from the SPA and community built the Capela and large bar building in San Pedro Park, both of which are still used today. The annual Festas raised money to maintain these buildings and add more to the park as years passed. A permanent Bingo booth was included in the park, adding more fun and excitement to each passing Festa. The SPA invited other community organizations, such as the VFW and the Bryte Volunteer Fire Department, to participate in the annual festivities.

Descendants of those first San Pedro Association members, who live all over the Sacramento Valley and beyond, have continued the Festa tradition by hosting an annual event reminiscent of those that began in the 1920s, continuing to raise funds to maintain the little gem that is historic San Pedro Park.

The 2024 San Pedro Festa will take place on Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30. Saturday’s festivities are from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., featuring traditional food favorites like Espetada de Carne (marinated beef barbecued on a spit), Linguica sandwiches, Portuguese sweet bread, and Portuguese beans and poncha (a Madeira Island cocktail). The traditional ‘Crowning of the Festa Queens’ will begin in the evening. The band Maya Latin Roots will perform live music from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. This highly acclaimed Latin Tribute Band is known for its diverse repertoire and old-school favorites that will get everyone dancing.

The 2024 Junior Queen, Ryleigh Sequeira Smith, is the daughter of Alicia Sequeira and Nathan Smith. Ryleigh descends from a long line of San Pedro Association (SPA) and Festa volunteers on both sides of her family stretching over many decades. She is the great-great-granddaughter of one of the founders of the San Pedro Association, Domingos Sequeira, as well as founder Francisco Carvahlo. In recent years, Ryleigh has volunteered at the Festa alongside her Grandparents, Ed and Debbie Sequeria, Mom Alicia, and Aunt, Marissa Sequiera.

Our Senior Queen, Marisa Koike Freitas, is the daughter of Miyoko and David Freitas, and the great-granddaughter of Albino Freitas, Sr., one of the founders of the San Pedro Association (SPA). Marisa and her parents are a US Embassy family, which means that in addition to the Washington, D.C. area, Marisa has lived abroad in cities such as Johannesburg, Kathmandu, and Recife. She will be returning to the US this June and will be “state-side” for a year, giving her the opportunity to participate in her family’s Madeiran traditions. Her grandparents, Dennis and Sharon Freitas, have been dedicated lifelong volunteers, keeping the park and the SPA going for decades.

Marisa Koike Freitas San Pedro Association

 Senior Queen Marisa Koike Freitas comes from a family of volunteers. Photo courtesy of San Pedro Association

Sunday’s events and traditions start with a Mass held at Holy Cross Church at 9 a.m. A procession from the church begins at 10 a.m., winding through the streets of Bryte (West Sacramento) and ending at San Pedro Park. In keeping with the traditions of the Madeiran culture, the statue of Saint Peter will be decorated and carried in the procession. The procession will also feature Grand Marshals Debbie and Ed Sequeira, lifelong volunteers and San Pedro Association (SPA) members. Debbie and Ed have not only participated in the parade and Festa as children and adults but have dedicated hundreds and hundreds of hours to fundraising events and maintenance projects at the park.

Members of the public are welcome to join in the procession along with the newly crowned Festa Queens, folkloric costumes, the Painted Ladies horses and riders, the Sacramento Youth Band and San Pedro members.

The park will open at 11 a.m. on Sunday, and the fun will continue with traditional food offerings, music, games, a silent auction, a live auction, and a ‘Friends of San Pedro’ key drawing. Become a member of SPA and you can participate in the key drawing.

San Pedro Park is located at 708 N. Hobson Avenue, West Sacramento (Bryte).

Holy Cross Church is located at 1321 Anna Street, West Sacramento.

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