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Making bread for 82nd FESM celebration
Maria Linhares, heft, and Natalie Andre carefully shape the coffee cake dough on a baking pan. The two were among the dozen or so volunteers who prepared the traditional Portuguese sweet bread. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO


• WHAT: 82nd annual Festa do Espiritu de Manteca (FESM) festival

• WHERE: FESM Halls, 200 block of North Main, Manteca

• WHEN: Sunday, July 13

• ACTIVITIES: Parade is at 9:30 a.m. followed at 10:30 a.m. by Mass at St. Anthony’s Church, Lunch of sopa and meat at 1 p.m., auction of gifts at 2 p.m. dinner of sopa and meat at 7 p.m., and dancing to the music from “ALMA” at 8 p.m.

• COST: No charge for meal or event

• MORE INFO: Call Annabelle at 209.679.9722

These are busy days at the FESM Hall in Manteca.

Throughout this week, a rosary novena is being prayed in the hall’s capela, or chapel, in the evening beginning at 7 p.m. During the day, the flurry of activity is centered on decorating both the dance and dining halls located on North Main Street between Center and North streets.

Culminating the prayers and the decorating preparations will be the annual festa taking place on Sunday. This is the 82nd annual festa for FESM, according to Sergio Leonardo who, along with wife Annebelle, are the co-presidents this year of the Festa do Espiritu de Manteca Portuguese Society.

The excitement went up a notch on Thursday when volunteer members started the long process involved in baking sweet Portuguese bread from scratch. The excitement reaches near fever pitch today when another volunteer team takes on the task of cooking the sopas, also from scratch. The sopas is the traditional Portuguese meal that will be served free of charge to all on Sunday at the hall following the 10:30 a.m. Portuguese Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Church. Presiding over the Mass will be Msgr. Myron Cotta who was named Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento in January of this year by Pope Francis. The new bishop has presided over the Portuguese festa Masses in Manteca in previous years.

The Mass will be preceded by the traditional procession from the FESM Hall on North Main Street to St. Anthony’s Church about four city blocks away on East North Street. After the Mass, the procession will reverse itself with the queens, bands and other festa participants marching back to the hall where the sopas feed, dancing and auctions will take place throughout the afternoon and into the evening.

The Leonardos’ six-year-old Cianna is this year’s Small Queen, with Gabriela Brazil and Amalia Silva as the Small Sidemaids.

The 2014 Festa Big Queen is Samantha Oliveira; and the Big Sidemaids are Samantha’s sister Kimberly and Crystal Monteiro.

The Leonardos’ son, 8-year-old Julien, will be escorting his sister during the celebration. Brother and sister are students at Great Valley Academy in Manteca.

Following tradition, the child or children of FESM Society’s incumbent presidents is, or are, part of the royal court. It has also become a tradition for the current vice presidents of the organization to take over as presidents of the organization the following year. Stepping up to that post after the Leonardos will be Frank and Nancy Martins.

This year’s president, Sergio Leonardo, was born in Terceira, an island in the Azores archipelago. He was three months old when his parents, Antonio and Niveria, came to the United States “because they wanted a better future for them and myself,” he said.

“We lived up and down the Central Valley, the majority of time in San Jose,” he said. “I moved down here in 2001 when I married Annabelle (nee Pontes).”

His wife is the daughter of Mary Lou Hernandez and Loren Pontes who owned Quicki-Kleen Car Wash in Manteca for many years. Annabelle works as a supply chain analyst at E&J Gallo in Modesto. Sergio is a network engineer for a computer company in San Jose. The family lives in Manteca.

Both devout Catholics, the Leonardos are faithful to their Portuguese culture and traditions.

“I definitely want to have my kids know their history and their culture so they are aware of it and are involved in the Portuguese community. That’s one of the main reasons why we want to keep this (FESM) organization going. We want the younger generation to continue this (tradition) and to continue to be involved in their faith and in the church,” Sergio Leonardo said.