JESSUP, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — We begin tonight with the return of a Memorial Day weekend tradition. Thousands of people made their way to Lackawanna County’s mid-valley for something celebrated in only one other place in the world.

When immigrants came to Jessup in 1909 they brought a piece of Italy with them. The Saint Ubaldo Day Festival. While the pandemic forced a two-year hiatus, the tradition is now back on track.

Dozens of men hoisting statues of three Catholic saints ran through the streets of Jessup.

The two-mile ‘Race of the Saints’ is a St. Ubaldo Day ritual. It stepped off for the first time since 2019 in front of thousands.

“Emotions are running high through all the streets for the runners, for everybody who participates, for the community,” stated Scott Hall, president of the St. Ubaldo Society.

The St. Ubaldo team dressed in gold, the St. George team in blue, and the St. Anthony team in black.

Teams of ten men carry the saints that are attached to wooden pillars weighing around 500 pounds. It’s a religious experience for runners like Gregori Anelli.

“We’re honoring them to watch over us and protect us. And the course is the course of life; there are ups, there are downs,” explained Gregori Anelli, St. Anthony team captain.

Navigating this course isn’t easy. It requires coordination and skill.

“They’re so fast, it goes so quickly, the runners are well-trained, they switch in and out,” said Rich Sakulich.

“Oh my gosh! I can’t believe they’re not dropping it. They all look so strong to be carrying it. Oh my gosh! I just can’t believe that they’re carrying it and running at the same time. It’s amazing,” said Jennifer Hauber.

Before the race, the teams walk through town, paying homage to those who can’t run anymore.

There are no winners or losers in this race but Saint Ubaldo is always in the lead. He’s the patron saint of Gubbio, Italy, the festival’s birthplace and the only other place in the world where it’s celebrated.

“We like this more than Christmas. This is something that we’ve all done, many of us from very small, to some just for a few years,” stated David Whitlock, 2019 primo Capitano, St. George.

A long and proud tradition that runs deep.

“This day means a lot to me and to my family. We came over from Gubbio, Italy, in 1963. My family was always Sant’Ubaldo over there, and I’m still Sant’Ubaldo today,” explained John Anelli, 2006 capodieci, St. Ubaldo.

Another foot race steps off Sunday– the children’s Corsa Dei Ceri. To delve into the rich history of Saint Ubaldo Day head over to their website.