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91st MRPS festa taking place this weekend
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• WHAT: 91st MRPS Festa
• WHEN: This Saturday & Sunday
• WHERE: MRPS Hall, 133 N. Grant St.
• DETAILS: Rosary at 7 p.m. Saturday. Sunday events are festa parade at 10:45 a.m., mass at St. Anthony’s at 10:45 a.m., auction following the free noon sopa lunch; free sopa dinner at 6 p.m., and dancing 8 p.m. to midnight.

Manteca as an incorporated city was only 11 years old when the Manteca-Ripon Pentecost Society was established.

In nine years, the Portuguese organization in Manteca will celebrate its first centennial. Hence, the parade this Sunday marking the 91st MRPS festa celebration is more than just a march from the hall on Grant Street to St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church a mere four blocks away. It will be a march toward that historic date for this religious organization whose storied history goes back to 13th-century Portugal when God manifested his miraculous ways.

On Pentecost day at the end of a nine-day novena, the starving people watched as three ships loaded with food sailed up the harbor and docked in Lisbon. It was the answer to their prayers.

The festa also memorializes the unselfish act of the queen at that time, Isabel of Agagao, who responded to the suffering of the people by secretly bringing bread from the palace to the poor and the hungry.

That philanthropic tradition continues today with the serving of free sopas to all at the MRPS Hall following the 10:45 a.m. mass and procession back to 133 North Grant St.

The grand procession to St. Anthony’s will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the festa queens and side maids joining the traditional participants – Queen Isabel and representatives of out-of-town Portuguese Pentecost organizations.

In addition to the serving of the sopas, the festa celebration will include an auction and dance. Sopas will be served again in the evening.

The religious aspect of the celebration will begin Saturday evening with the rosary being recited in the MRPS chapel starting at 7 p.m.

The Portuguese festa season begins right after Pentecost Sunday. Up and down Central California, festas are celebrated practically every weekend through the summer and beyond.  An online list of 2010 festas  show festa celebrations and contas continuing through the month of November with a Festas das Contas being celebrated at the Portuguese Hall in Fort Bragg on Dec. 4 starting at noon.

Manteca is a rarity as far as festas go because of its fortune to have not just one but two Portuguese organizations. The history of the two organizations is interrelated but that is entirely another story.

Manteca’s second festa this year featuring the Festa do Espirito Santo de Manteca (FESM) celebration will be held in July.