John Correia walked into the MRPS Hall Friday morning and had his work cut out for him.
With more than 1,500 people expected to flow through the doors on Sunday to take part in the Portuguese organization’s 92nd annual Holy Ghost Celebration, the second-generation MRPS member and longtime festa volunteer started cooking the 6,300 pounds of beef that will be used to serve the traditional sopas.
With his daughter Jessica helping prepare the fixings – and his three other kids stopping by in the afternoon – Correia was continuing a tradition that his parents began and he continues to this day by cooking at both of Manteca’s Portuguese halls.
“I grew up down here doing this, so there’s a lot of tradition for me,” Correia said while adding spices to one of the massive pots containing beef. “There’s a level of camaraderie with the guys that you’re down here working with. And with all of my kids coming down, it’s really a family affair for us – they all chip in and help.”
But while the boiled beef might be the main ingredient, it’s far from the only thing needed to prepare the dish of the day that draws people from throughout the area that come to partake.
More than 20 cases of cabbage, 700 pounds of onions, two-dozen huge cans of tomato sauce and a hearty blend of vegetables, herbs, spices and sauces are also added to get the mixture just right before it gets to the point where it’s ready to be served to the first wave of people on Sunday morning.
“And there are also people that can’t make it down here to eat so we have people that have routes and they go out and take trays to them so they can enjoy it as well,” said MRPS President Tony Coit. “This is a big celebration and we want everybody to be able to be a part of it.”
The festa itself is held in the memory of Portugal’s Queen Isabel – who, according to historical accounts, disobeyed King Diniz in 1296 by carrying bread under her gowns to serve to the people of her country that were suffering from a terrible famine. When she was ordered by the king to open her apron, a bouquet of red roses appeared – taken as a sign that her love for her people had been honored by God.
Serving sopas to anybody who comes honors Queen Isabel – who was canonized as a Saint – and keeps with the long Catholic tradition that the Portuguese immigrants carried with them when they settled in the area.
The event officially begins tonight at the MRPS Hall with a rosary at 7 p.m. It continues Sunday, August 21, at 9 a.m. with the procession of the queens from the FESM Hall to the MRPS Hall before the parade to the Portuguese Mass at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church – which begins at 10:45 a.m. Sopas will be served at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, at noon Sunday, and at 6 p.m. Sunday.
An auction will begin shortly after the mass, and a dance will take place from 8 p.m. to midnight with music provided by Sem Duvida.
The MRPS Hall is located at 133 N. Grant Street.