The 99th anniversary of the Saint Sebastian's Church Festival has been canceled this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Church officials and feast organizers made the decision to call off the annual three-day feast, which includes the popular "I Nuri Run."
During this run the faithful gather at Saint Sebastian’s Cemetery in Middlefield to say prayers to their departed relatives, to God and to Saint Sebastian before departing for the church in Middletown.
Runners are either barefoot or in stocking feet and wear white clothes and a red sash with a picture of Saint Sebastian pinned to it.
According to church organizers, Dr. Gene Nocera and Phillip Pessina, this is the first time in the 99-year history of the church that the feast was canceled.
Father James Thaikoottathil stated that the statue of Saint Sebastian will be unveiled on Saturday, May 16 for the 5:30 p.m. Mass and that the service will be held without congregants. The Mass will be lived streamed on the Saint Sebastian's Church Facebook page and YouTube channel.
On Sunday, May 17, the church will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. so parishioners can pray privately and "… invoke in front of the statue," according to Father Thaikoottathil.
Parishioners may enter the church through the ramp-side door. Attendees are encouraged to wear masks and gloves and to follow social distancing guidelines.
Also, Father Thaikoottathil is discouraging the practice of pinning money to the statue. If parishioners wish to donate money, they should send it to the parish office.
Father Thaikoottathi is hopeful the festival will return next year for the Middletown church’s centennial.