St. Theresa Feast is approved to return with family focus, new name following controversial past

St. Theresa Church assures that incidents occurred outside feast
Children ride the Jumpin’ Star at the St. Theresa Feast in 2014.
Photo Laura Stone

An annual church fundraising event turned sour in 2019 after rowdy teenagers put Pelham Bay into a panic over the St. Theresa Feast.

But after having an uncertain fate, the event is back this year with a new focus and new name, Rev. Thomas Derivan told the Bronx Times.

It will now be called the Parish Festival and will focus on local families and parishioners. Derivan explained that the feast started out as a block party, and the church is trying to reconnect it to its roots. The event will take place from Wednesday, June 22 to Sunday, June 26. The five-day festival is known for having carnival rides, music, food, games and vendors, and concludes with a procession with a St. Theresa statue.

“We want to get beyond the adult things and go back to making it a family celebration, especially geared towards the children,” he said.

A video on Facebook shows teenagers jumping on top of a car like it’s a trampoline outside the Buhre Avenue subway station in June 2019 during and near the St. Theresa Feast, an annual church and Catholic school fundraiser that began in 1997. Residents have blamed the ruckus on the feast, saying the teenagers involved had just left the festival. But the church feels like it was unfairly blamed.

A single mother who lacked comprehensive car insurance because of her financial situation told the Bronx Times in 2019 her car faced damages from the unruliness, including a broken sunroof. She claimed the teens were in the neighborhood because of the feast.

According to residents, there were other incidents of mayhem causing locals distress, but the NYPD did not respond to requests for details on what occurred that night.

In 2019, concerned locals created a petition that drew 325 signatures and urged a discussion of safety measures before another permit was issued for the festival.

Ares Valverde takes a shot at the Test Your Strength game at a past feast. Photo Laura Stone

But at a Jan. 19, 2020 Community Board 10 meeting, a permit for the event was rejected in a 14-2 advisory vote, with 10 abstentions.

“Board members felt that in previous years, disruptive individuals have caused havoc in the surrounding area as well as causing property damage,” the 2020 meeting minutes stated. “Many noted the issues are lack of police presence, violence and negative effect on residents who live within the street closures.”

St. Theresa Church emphasized that the incidents took place outside the borders of the festival. But feast planning efforts were ultimately abolished anyway in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

But on Thursday, CB10 unanimously approved a permit for the event to happen this year.

CB10 District Manager Matt Cruz said in an interview with the Bronx Times that while board members were uncomfortable granting the permit in 2020, they now want to give the event another chance. He said that while the incidents didn’t take place within the feast, they were caused by older kids who had just come from the event, according to area residents — a claim Derivan said there is no proof of.

While the board has historically asked organizers not to advertise the feast on social media or television to contain the event, board members emphasized the point this year, Cruz said. The main change in security is that the event will have police on horseback.

“It’s normally a family-friendly environment, but every now and then we get some older teenagers who want to stop by and not go for the right reasons,” Cruz said. “And we just try to be mindful of that.”

Reach Aliya Schneider at aschneider@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.

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