The San Pedro Association was organized in 1922 in honor of its patron saint , Saint Peter. The story goes that a family priest was visiting areas of Madeira Island immigrants raising funds to build a Capela and a monument to "Nossa Senora da Paz" ("Our Lady of Peace") in Monte above the City of Funchal, Madeira Island. The capela and monument were built and are still in existance. A gathering (Festa) was held under the large Oak trees located on vacant property adjacent to N. Hobson Ave., between Lisbon and Riverbank Avenues, to solicit donations.
The Festa was later to become an annual event featuring two days of carne espita, traditional auction, religious procession and Catholic Mass. The association Queens presided over the Festa and also would participate in all the local Azorean Holy Spirit Festas. The original association grounds were on the banks of the Sacramento River in the township of Riverbank. In the 20s, the festa was called the Riverbank Festa after the name of the area. Later on the township name was changed to Bryte, the family name of an established dairy family in the area.
The first Festas were held in a weathered barn like structure ( Russia Progressive Club hall, located at the end of Solano St. ) that belonged to the Russian community. Later property was acquired along side the RPC Hall on the levee, located on what is now Riverbank Rd., between Water and Short Sts., It has been said that the property was acquired via a loan made by the Lee family, the first to settle in the Riverbank area.
The federal government acquired the riverbank grounds in the early 1940s for levee reinforcement forcing the association to move to its present location on North Hobson Ave. The current property was previously the homestead of Mr. Antonio G. Silva and Maria Norbriga Silva. Mr. Silva was the original owner and proprietor of the Mecca Bar, the family home that set on the property was destroyed in a fire. Mr. Silva rebuilt the family home on Lisbon Ave. adjacent to the current San Pedro Park. Mr. Silva was an active member of the association.
The annual event was discontinued during the war years of the 1940s but re-established in 1947. As per Madeiran custom, a new chapel (capela) was built as well as other grounds improvements made. The Festas continued again until 1979 when, due to local despersing of the Madeiran community, the public Festa was discontinued.
The annual Festa was not only an Madeiran event, it was considered by the townsfolk as a Bryte community event. Many families and schoolmates used the annual event as an informal reunion to renew old acquaintances and talk about " the good old days" and find out what had happened to who, who died, got married to whom, had kids, and so on. Participants in the procession and the festa included the Bryte Volunteer Fire Dept., the Boy Scouts, VFW, Manhart Legion Drum and Bugle Corp, Cameron Bagpipe Band, Camilla City Band, local Little League groups and of course visiting queens from the other portuguese organizations from Freeport, Lincoln, Rio Vista, and Sacramento ( also Dixon, Woodland, and Crocket in the early period ). The procession always included 3 religious floats, Saint Peter the fisherman, Our Lady of Fatima and Queen Isabella. For many of years The duties and honor of being Grand Marshall was bestowed on Noe P. Ramos, whose father was one of the early founders of the festa. In later years, Tony Pinto Jr. ( a nephew of Noe's and son of Antonio J. Pinto, a long time member of the association ) was honored as Marshall, having been in the military during the Vietnam war.
Children were recruited from families in Bryte to take part in the procession, riding the floats as angels, etc., carrying flags and banners, holding the holy rosary. For the stronger teenage boys came the honor of carrying our statue of our patron Saint Peter and its flower bedecked carrier to and from the church. Of course the glory was always in being selected the baby or senior Festa queens. Although young girls were selected outside of the immediate organization for the honor, in most instances the honor was bestowed on member families having girls of suitable ages. The week before the park would be filled with members decorating the religious floats, cleaning and decorating the chapel , trimming the shrubs, fixing the tables and benches, cooking the tremocos (lupini beans), cleaning the iron spits and on and on.
In the days before the gas-fired barbeque pit, the men would go up along the river and cut willow branches for use as the spits for the meat. These would then be brought back and trimmed by all and bundled up and soaked in water until used. The willows were always a source of trouble in that because of the heat of the wood burning barbeque pit, the spits would frequently burn, dropping the meat into the fire.
On saturday evening the queens were honored by a coronation, after which followed a dance on the open-air dance area. A live band was always present.
Sunday was the big day. The procession would be formed in front of the grounds. Muzio Baking company would provide the sound truck, Portuguese music would be played, the different groups would be lined up, the Portuguese National Anthem (1) A Portuguesa- background/lyrics
(2) more (3) play and USA National Anthem (Star Spangled Banner) would be played , flags raised and eventually all would march off to Holy Cross Church for the mass in honor of Saint Peter. The queen would carry Saint Peter's Key, comemorating that Saint Peter was given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven by Jesus Christ.
For many years the procession would proceed via Highway 16 to Yolo St., then to the "The Sacred Heart of Mary" Catholic church at Hobson Ave. and Yolo St. (Note: first mass 1916- the primary parish church was "Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament" in Broderick (Washington), later to be torn down, replaced by a new church "Our Lady of Grace" on Jefferson Blvd., WS., "The Sacred Heart of Mary" Catholic Church was replaced by the present "Holy Cross" Catholic Church in the early 1960s. ) After a Catholic Mass the procession would reconvene and proceed back to the park via Hobson Ave. to Bryte Ave. then to Lisbon Ave. After Holy Cross Church was built, the route was changed to proceed via Hobson Ave. , to Todhunter St. and the church. The return route would then be via Anna St., then Bryte Ave., then down Lisbon Ave. to the park grounds.
A spectacular fireworks display was provided each evening. These were arranged for and fired off by Antonio Pinto Sr. The property directly across the road was used for shooting off the high flying fireworks. It was dangerous work and was done professionally by Tony with his cigar providing the ignition tool for many years with out a mishap. These displays were continued until the town became too populated and it had become a fire hazard. For many years the festival included a carnival, Ferris Wheel, games of skill and chance, and many kiddie rides, even a Fortune Teller, San Pedro's Wheel of Fortune , Hap and Ruth Yeager's Dart and Plush animal booths and Kiddie Swing , Fireman's Bingo and of course Jordan Ramos' hotdog and sno-cone booth.
San Pedro provided 2,000 lbs of barbeque beef, quartered into small chunks and soaked in that special Madeiran marinade of wine, spices and bay leaf sprigs, of course you had to cook your own spit of beef to your own liking, and beer (cold 7oz. bottles), orange soda (other flavors also), mixed drinks and of course Muzio french bread and Tremocos. Later on the women members began offering potato and macaroni salads, hotdogs, beef and linguica sandwiches. These were a big hit with the crowds as they then could get something to eat without having to spend the time and effort cooking. An enjoyable time was had by all!
A private observance still continues, for members and guests, on the last Sunday of June, at Sao Pedro Park in Bryte.