The June celebration traces its tradition back to 1904, when the Great Baltimore Fire burned through the city over a 31 hour period, Sunday through Monday, February 7-8, 1904. Parishioners fromSt. Leo's gathered at the Jones Falls River and prayed to St. Anthony, the "Wonderworker," as the fire approached. The wind abruptly changed direction, leaving Little Italy and St. Leo's untouched by the conflagration. An 80-block area of the downtown business district, from the harbor to Mount Vernon, was destroyed, at an estimated cost of $200 million. Curiously, not only was the entire neighborhood of Little Italy spared, the destruction did not include any Baltimore homes either.
Since the 1904 fire, the congregation at St. Leo's has honored St. Anthony on the first weekend of every June with a two-day festival. According to Father Sal Furnan of St. Leo's, Baltimore remembers the 1904 fire as the day of a miracle. The celebration honoring the saint includes food and music as well as the procession.
St. Leo the Great Roman Catholic Church, established in 1881, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The festival a benefit for St. Leo the Great Roman Catholic Church (227 South Exeter Street, Baltimore, MD 21202), which was established in 1881 (cornerstone laid 1880), is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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Celebrating St. Anthony's Festival