Portuguese tradition set to come alive in Gustine

The area's largest Portuguese festa, Our Ladies of Miracles Celebration, kicks off in Gustine on Friday. The celebration will include religious services as well as the traditional cow parade, candlelight procession and bullfights before it ends Sept. 15.

Dating to the 1700s in the Azores, the festa was brought to the United States in 1936 and is especially popular with the 35,000 Portuguese living in the Central Valley. It's a religious and cultural celebration of their roots.

The events are free, except for the bloodless bullfights at Bello Vista Arena in Newman, which costs $20. A limited amount of tickets will be available at the gate.

The religious events are held at Our Lady of Miracles Catholic Church, 370 Linden Ave., Gustine, unless otherwise noted. Here is the schedule:

Friday through Sept. 10: 7:30 p.m. Novena (prayer cycle) including Mass. Anointing of sick on Sept. 10.

Sept. 11: 9 p.m., musicians include artists from Portugal, GPS Hall, 500 Third Ave.

Sept. 12: 9 p.m., entertainment at GPS Hall.

Sept. 13: 10 a.m., Bodo de Leite (cow parade), departs from Our Ladies of Miracles to Henry Mil- ler Park, followed by folklore group; 6 p.m., Mass, coronation of Our Lady of Miracles and candlelight procession to park for all-night adoration; 9 p.m., dance at GPS Hall, with 10 p.m. presentation of queens.

Sept. 14: 9 a.m., parade from GPS Hall to Our Lady of Miracles; 10:30 a.m., Mass, followed by procession of saints; 2 p.m., concert of bands in park; 7 p.m., rosary service; 8 p.m. dance in GPS Hall; 10 p.m., presentation of queen; midnight, procession and return of Our Lady of Miracles statue to church.

Sept. 15: 3 p.m., Bella Vista Park opens; 7:30 p.m., presentation of queens; 8 p.m. bullfights featuring six bulls, plus matadors from Mexico and Spain.

For more information, call 854-6692.