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Fair play

Collin Rodrigues on why a 50-year-old city fete is losing its lustre.

art and culture Updated: Feb 21, 2009 12:12 IST
Collin Rodrigues

In the by-lanes of Sandhurst Road is the parish of St Joseph’s. There is a school by the same name there, which in 2007, completed a platinum jubilee. But the most popular event at the school is Jose Fete held every year in February.



The annual fair marks the feast of St Joseph on March 19. It is celebrated well in advance as the day coincides with the 40-day mourning period of Lent that precedes Good Friday. The festivities start the week before Ash Wednesday (the day Lent begins).



Low-key


This is probably the only event in the locality that draws people from all faiths. This year, it is being celebrated on a small scale for only two days because of the recent terror attacks.



Says member of the parish council, Roland D’Souza, “Cardinal Oswal Gracias has instructed every church in the city to keep its celebrations low-key as a mark of respect for the victims.”



So there won’t be giant wheels and merry-go-rounds. Fewer stalls will be erected and no entry fee will be charged. Adds the school’s principal, Dominic Pereira, “The police is ready for additional security measures. We want children to have a good time.”



The first fete was organised by father Vinibald Menezes in 1958. The seven-day affair was launched by Cardinal Valerian Gracias at the adjoining municipal grounds. The Rs 40,000 raised, funded the construction of the school and the hall.



Nearly two decades later, father German Lemos and the parish choir took the initiative to host the second fair in 1976. For three days parishioners sold food on benches because there were no funds for stalls.



It stopped again in 1980 because losses were accumulating. In 1985, father Jochiam Caldiero restarted it to fund the Papal visit. Since then, Jose Fete has been celebrated annually, except in 1997-’98 because of parish issues.



Give it a miss


Last year, it was celebrated over five days. Stalls like song request, hungry Horas, light the candle, test your nerves and park the car have became a rage. The U K King and Queen pageant is something most youngsters eagerly wait for.



The biggest stall is put up by the Christian Mothers. It sells everything from Goan sweets to local bread. The venue is cramped on most days and resembles a mini Bandra fair. Volunteers of YOU or Youth of Umerkhadi manage the proceedings. A stage is built for bands to play, dance and for fancy dress competitions.



But this weekend, most locals plan to give the fete a miss. Says Leo Gonsalves who regularly hangs out at the church after work, “I’d rather party some place else than mingle here with kids.”



The feeling is echoed by his friends. Is the half-century-old annual fair on its way out?