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Portuguese heritage celebrated

By: Carol Feineman, News Messenger Editor
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Cadence Medeiros, 6 and a Lincoln first-grader , has been waiting almost a year for this weekend. This will be her second time marching in the Lincoln Portuguese Holy Ghost Association’s annual Festa festivities. The 86th annual Festa honors 13th-century Queen Saint Isabella in Portugal, who according to the association’s representatives, sacrificed her crown, rings and jewelry to the church so a famine would end and her subjects could eat again. Lincoln’s Festa kicks off the celebrations held throughout Northern California. Cadence, as a side maid, will assist the little queen in ceremonial processions Saturday night and Sunday morning approaching a chapel altar at McBean Park, and will also walk beside the queen to Sunday’s 10 a.m. Mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. She is among the 10 Lincoln-area side maids, flower girls and queens, according to her father, Nelson Medeiros, the Lincoln Portuguese Holy Ghost Association’s vice president. Instead of being nervous, though, Cadence is excited. All the court participants are Cadence’s cousins, who participate together in the Festa every year. About 100 families are of Portuguese descent in Lincoln, according to Medeiros, 34 and a first-generation American, whose family emigrated from Portugal’s Azores Islands to Lincoln in the early 1960s. In fact, Cadence will be little queen in 2011, according to her father. He explained that queens are booked up for the next 16 years. This year, though, Cadence only has to worry about assisting the queen, which includes holding the surprisingly heavy cape during the processions and holding the crown on the queen’s head during Sunday’s Mass. She’s also looking forward, Cadence said, to visiting the haunted house at the Festa’s carnival at McBean Park, which runs from this afternoon to Sunday, and eating the traditional sopas Sunday. Cadence isn’t the only one excited about the approaching Festa, an all-ages celebration held in downtown Lincoln for 86 consecutive years. Between 6,000 and 8,000 Lincoln residents and visitors attend the annual festivities, according to her father. As a point of reference, Medeiros said that 4,500 pounds of meat are typically prepared each year to make enough sopas for 5,000 visitors. While Festas are held throughout the United States, Lincoln’s celebration is special, according to Maria Pinguelo-Ordorica, the Lincoln Portuguese Holy Ghost Association’s president. “It’s the community, the feeling you get from the city of Lincoln how they help us out, including the Lincoln Police Department, Fire Department, all willing to be there and work there as a team,” Pinguelo-Ordorica explained. She also credits the Portuguese residents in Lincoln for working so hard on the Festa. “Some of them take the whole week off from work. But it’s rewarding because it’s a way for us to give back. For 86 years, the people of this community did this Festa so our heritage can continue,” Pinguelo-Ordorica said. “If it wasn’t for these people going back to 1923, we won’t be here today. Some of these people are in their 80s and 90s. We learn by example. We give by example.” Both Pinguelo-Ordorica and Medeiros said that the Festa stresses their heritage of giving back to the community. In fact, the land that the city’s McBean Park is on previously belonged to the Lincoln Portuguese Holy Ghost Association, according to Medeiros. “The association donated the land to the city to make a park in 1958,” Medeiros said. And, every year, Pinguelo-Ordorica and Medeiros indicated, the city is very involved in making sure the Festa happens. Why should residents attend the Festa? “It’s a family affair, amusement park, great food, camaraderie, fellowship,” Pinguelo-Ordorica said. “It’s a big deal. A lot of people who eat and drink are not Portuguese. The Festa is open to everyone who wants to come and enjoy our time and be part of our beautiful celebration.”