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What started as fulfilling a family commitment to the annual Our Lady of Pompeii carnival has grown into much more for Ric Raffone. (Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Ric Raffone spells his first name the way he does out of a sense of tradition, necessity, and a family legacy—the same family that has contributed to the Our Lady of Pompeii parish carnival since its earliest days.
Ric comes from a family of seven children. He says that when his mother wrote the kids’ names on their lunches every morning, she had to write quickly. That’s how “Rick” became shortened to “Ric.” He keeps the spelling today.
His family has been a part of the parish’s annual carnival, which Ric says started soon after his family moved to town from New Haven in 1952.
“My father was very involved and my mother was very involved. My older brothers were involved, my older sister…we just kept being involved,” Ric says. “When we were little my father and mother brought us down to help doing something, even if it was cleaning up trash.”
Following in his father’s footsteps, Ric chaired the finance committee in 1994. He became a co-chair of the carnival in 2015.
This year, the carnival will take place at Our Lady of Pompeii Church from Tuesday, July 23 to Sunday, July 27 at Our Lady of Pompeii, 355 Foxon Road, East Haven with the fun beginning at 5:30 p.m. and lasting until 10 p.m.
Every night, women from the church raffle off home-baked cakes in a lead up to the big raffle on the last night that offers $10,000 as a grand prize.
The carnival will feature typical carnival fair with rides, games of skill, and food. The crew will be serving everything from hot dogs to Italian ice and, of course, fried dough pizza.
“It’s our biggest attraction,” Ric says. “It opens a half hour before the carnival opens and people line up a half hour before that to buy it.”
The carnival’s fried dough pizza has long been an important part of the event.
“The people that work there have been doing it forever….The ladies that are in their 80s are the heart and soul of the booth,” he says.
For a lot of people, volunteering the carnival itself is a tradition no matter where they live. Ric remembers one East Haven native who retired to Florida and would block off the weeks around the carnival to come up and help out.
“He used to take care of the sauce….He was like a boom-box. He would set up all the Italian music in the pizza booth. He would come early and stay late every night,” Ric says.
Though that man has since passed away, others still come from around the state to work at the carnival.
The operation is undertaken by close to 300 volunteers from ages 10 to in their 90s, working the ticket booths and the parking lot and running food from the church basement.
“The people that are in their 80s and 90s amaze me every year,” Ric says. “Unbelievable energy.”
Though the carnival takes place at Our Lady of Pompeii, people help out from all over town. Chris says that volunteer firefighters from Company 3 come out every year to work at the first aid station.
“They’ve been with us…always. As long as I can remember,” he says.
Ric says his family has always been among the volunteers who count the money.
His father was an accountant and many members of Ric’s family are, too, so of the 15 people set to the task of counting the money, many of them have always been Ric’s relatives, even when the going gets tough.
“We count the coins by hand because our coin machine broke about eight years ago,” he says.
It’s Ric’s son and son-in-law who are left with that job. The money earned from the carnival goes back to help the church, paying for the renovation of the Our Lady of Pompeii statue and a new mural as well as re-roofing and general maintenance concerns at both town churches.
“I spend most of my time volunteering,” Ric says. “Keeps me busy…otherwise, you stop, they throw dirt on you and put a stone on your head. Who wants that?”
He stays busy as president of the Sal Tinari Biddy Basketball League, the financial secretary of Council 3300 of the Knights of Columbus, and the treasurer of the Foxon Recreational League and serves on the School Building Committee and the Inlands Wetland Commission.
“I like working with the people and the kids and everybody you meet,” he says. “It’s unbelievable.”
To nominate a Person of the Week, email Nathan Hughart at n.hughart@Zip06.com.
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