The St. Peter’s Fiesta is an annual 5-day festival in Gloucester honoring the Feast of St. Peter, a Roman Catholic celebration, which falls on June 29. Festivities such as the Gloucester Greasy Pole Contest, sponsored by the Italian American fishing community of Gloucester, take place annually in the days leading up to June 29.
Seine boat races, an outdoor procession, musical entertainment at St. Peter’s Park, and a Fiesta 5K Road Race through Gloucester are just some of the entertainment options to explore during the 5-day festival. The main event, that draws thousands of spectators, and some daring athletes, to Pavillion Beach is the Greasy Pole Contest a tradition dating back to 1927.
Footage from the 2023 Greasy Pole Contest
This year, 27-year-old Colin Sweet won the 2023 Greasy Pole Contest!
What is the Gloucester Greasy Pole Contest?
The 93rd Greasy Pole Contest (3 years were lost due to the pandemic) takes place on Friday, June 23 through Sunday, June 25. One of the world’s most quirky tests of athleticism, a 45-foot erect metal telephone pole is smothered in grease. The goal for contestants is to climb up the platform walk the length of the pole and grab the flag at the tip and wave it in victory.
With the competition set 200 feet out at sea, this would be challenging without grease just considering the wind involved. Throw on a layer of grease and contestants face embarrassing slips at best and broken ribs at worst. However, the show must go on and dozens compete annually, with some returning champions such as 80-year-old Salvi Benson whose historic ecord-setting 1968-1980 run saw an unmatched 11 wins.
Strategy and experience is ultimately what sets apart winners from goners that make a devasting crash into the water below. Tiptoeing often results in a fall at some point along the 45-foot stretch. Speeding along like a racehorse and allowing momentum to glide athletes along the pole to the end seems to be the most effective strategy.
Find the 2023 Greasy Pole Contest at Pavilion Beach in Gloucester, MA
Beginning around 4:45 PM immediately following the Seine boat races
June 23-25, 2023