SPRING HILL - A long parade of priests flicking holy water and parishioners followed a statue of Mother Cabrini through the festival grounds at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church on Thursday.
"We've had carnivals before," said Parish Manager Cindy Chase. "We're hoping to make this a tradition that's meaningful to our church."
Chase said the religious street festival is a rich tradition in the north, and many of the church's parishioners have "fond childhood memories" of the celebrations.
Chase said the festival coincides with the feast day of Frances Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants, who was born in Italy and later became a United States citizen. Cabrini, who lived to be 67 years old, started 67 institutions, including schools, hospitals, orphanages and a religious order, Chase said.
"This is something in the urban parts of the country that all Catholics grew up with," said event organizer Ralph DeCristofaro.
DeCristofaro and other members of Amici Nostri, a Spring Hill Italian-American club, took turns carrying the heavy statue during the procession.
The idea for the Feast of St. Frances Cabrini has been two and a half years in the making, DeCristofaro said. The festival's inaugural year was put on hold last fall when a carnival ride company had to cancel because of Hurricane Sandy.
The festival lasts through Sunday afternoon, and activities include rides, games, a cannoli eating contest, entertainment, raffles, and traditional Italian street food.
A second procession of the Mother Cabrini statue is set for noon on Saturday. All money pinned to the saint's clock goes back to the church.
"We're hoping for a really good turn out," DeCristofaro said.