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Greasy pole, grease pole or greased pole refers to a pole that has been made slippery and thus difficult to grip. More specifically, it is the name of several events that involve staying on, climbing up, walking over or otherwise traversing such a pole. This kind of event exist in several variations around the world.
The United Kingdom
In the UK, contests to climb a greasy pole were held at numerous fairs including the Crab Fair in Egremont, Cumbria where the contest continues to this day - alongside the annual Gurning World Championships see Gurn. The prize for climbing the 30 foot pole was originally a hat but from 1852 became a side of mutton - which if there are no winners is cut up and distributed to the poor. Since 2004 the greasy pole has been discontinued as an event at Egremont Crab Fair, due to high insurance cover costs, should a participant fall from the pole.
As of the 19th of January 2008 Egremont is the proud home of the new Greasy Pole. A 30 ft Sculpture by Turner Prize Winning artist Jeremy Deller and collaborator Alan Kane. This is the team's first piece of public art and marks the re-introduction of the Greasy Pole as a crab fair event.
A slight variation is provided at the annual Seaview Regatta on the Isle of Wight. Here the greasy pole is horizontal over the sea and competitors walk along it, the one who walks the furthest before falling into the sea is the winner.
Blakeney in North Norfolk also has a horizontal pole over water that is erected each year for the Blakeney regatta. The event dates back to 1873 and the prize for winning in the early days was a hog. The object is to reach the end by walking along the heavily greased pole, although in recent years sliding has become the preferred method. Blakeney regatta also includes sailing, swimming, and tug of war across the creek.
The Greasy Pole Contest takes place every year during St. Peter's Fiesta in Gloucester, Massachusetts. During this time, many young men try their luck at walking down a greased, wooden pole in the middle of Gloucester Harbor. The goal is to be the first person to grab the red flag at the end of the pole.
The Greasy Pole competition originated in Sicily in the 19th century or earlier, and was brought to Gloucester by the Italian immigrant population of fishermen in the early 20th century. The object is to walk across a greased pole protruding from a platform about 200 yards from shore. This platform, depending on the tide, can be anywhere from 10–25 ft above the water. The pole, which hangs over the water, is 45 feet long, and only about as wide as a standard telephone pole. This pole is then heavily greased with biodegradable axle grease mixed with anything from Tabasco sauce to oil, banana peels, and various other slippery objects. A red flag (or sometimes the Italian Flag with a red flag underneath it) is then nailed to the very end of the pole. The idea is to run out on the heavily greased pole and try to grab the flag before slipping and falling into the water. About 40 or 50 men between age 18–60 go out from Pavilion Beach in Gloucester MA during the St. Peter Fiesta, the last weekend of June. They walk the pole one at a time in a pre-determined order. Generally, the men are of Italian descent, although the walkers may include all nationalities. Because of the popularity of the event, there are strict rules as to who is eligible to walk on Sunday. The event is currently held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 4:45PM.
The first round of the Greasy Pole is dubbed as the "Courtesy Round." This is done so that all the walkers get a chance to walk the pole. Generally, this is used to get a feel for exactly how greasy the pole really is. Some of the more experienced walkers only walk out a small distance and then dive off the pole into the water to save themselves from injury. Once all the walkers participating have walked, the second round begins. After the courtesy round is over, the flag can come down at any time. There are three days in which the Greasy Pole is competed:
Fiesta Friday Most of the newcomers to the Greasy Pole event walk on Friday. The winner of the Friday Greasy Pole will walk first on Saturday.
Fiesta Saturday People who began walking before Greasy Pole Friday was implemented in 1999 or people who have won on Greasy Pole Friday walk on Saturday. The winner of Saturday then will walk first on Sunday.
Fiesta Sunday Also referred to as Championship Sunday. The winner of Saturday walks first, and on the platform are the former Saturday and Sunday champions of the Greasy Pole from years past and protégés of the former champions who can no longer walk because they have died or can no longer walk for health reasons. Winning on Fiesta Sunday is the most prestigious honor that a Greasy Pole walker can achieve, and every year they return to walk on Fiesta Sunday.
Generally speaking, the Greasy Pole is done for bragging rights. A trophy is given out to the winner, but in the close knit town of Gloucester where everyone knows each other, this is done for the right to say "I won." (free drinks all night at all the bars)
This is obviously a very risky event. Walking through an almost frictionless environment anywhere from 10–25 feet over water on a very narrow pole can be dangerous. Several injuries, most of them minor, can and have occurred. These injuries can range from scrapes and bruises to broken facial bones or ribs from falling and landing on the pole. Police boats are nearby to assist if someone is seriously injured and needs to be taken to the hospital.
- The first winner of the Greasy Pole was Natale Misuraca. He died in 2011, and the new pole structure has a shrine to him at the point of departure for all walkers.
- The record for most Greasy Pole wins belongs to Salvi Benson (10) 4Sat, 6Sun.
- Peter "Black" Frontiero won 7 straight Sunday contests between 1987–1993.Most Sunday wins,9 over all and all on Super Sunday .
- The only man who has won all 3 days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 1999) in a year is Jake Wood . 6th round Friday, 3rd Sat, 2nd Sun. Jake started walking in 1998 he now has a total of 7 wins . The Friday Greasy Pole was implemented, 1999.
- Anthony "Matza" Giambanco is known as the "Sheriff of the Greasy Pole." 6 time champ. "Matza" famously walked and slid to the end of the pole, where he stood for a few seconds in triumph before jumping into the water with flag in hand.
- In 1979, one man grabbed the flag in the first round, breaking the Courtesy Round rule. Unfortunately, he incurred the wrath of Anthony "Matza" Giambanco. He promptly punched the man, nailed the flag to the pole, and the competition continued.
- Peter Black Frontiero is the only walker in the history of the competition to win in three different decades ( 80's, 90's and 00's) and with three different announcers ( Mike Deliberti, Big Tom Brancleone, and Sammy "samutzu" Nicastro
- Joseph "JoeyD" DaSilva is the first walker to ever win on sea and land. They call it the surf and turf champion. With his two wins (Friday Fiesta 2011 and Fall Classic Saturday 2011)
- For the 75th anniversary, in a big surprise to everyone, the announcer at the time (Sam Nicastro) was joined by his predecessors Big Tom Brancleone and Mike Dileberti for the announcing duties
- Joseph "JoeyD" DaSilva holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest time to cross a 42 ft long greased pole at 4.96 seconds. He set the record on the set of "Guinness World Records Gone Wild" in Los Angeles, California July 6, 2012.
- The Greasy Pole was washed away, along with the platform that supported it, by a storm on September 30, 2011. As of March, 2012, it was being rebuilt and was expected to be ready for the 2012 event.
Past Winners 1931 to 1998 (Before Friday Competition)
|Year||Saturday Winner||Sunday Winner|
|1931||Natale "Nat" Misuraca||Oritan Vincenzo|
|1932||Oritan Vincenzo||Oritan Vincenzo|
|1933||Geronimo Parisi||Geronimo Parisi|
|1934||Jimmy Sinagra||Dominic Grillo|
|1935||Natale "Nat" Misuraca||Not Held|
|1936||No Record||Not Held|
|1937||No Record||Not Held|
|1938||Jerome Loicano||Not Held|
|1939||Jerome Loicano||Salvatore Randazza|
|1941||Joe Marino||Joe Marino|
|1942||Jerome Loicano||Joseph Frontiero|
|1943||Joseph Verga||Peter Mione|
|1944||Joseph Argusso||Louie Linquata|
|1950||John Randazza||Jerome Liocano|
|1951||Gino Biondo||Louio Linquata|
|1952||Joseph Argrusso||Rained Out|
|1953||Tommy Misuraca||Tommy Misuraca|
|1954||Johny Quince||Tommy Misuraca|
|1955||Beanie Nicastro||Beanie Nicastro|
|1956||Carlo "Sleppy" Pallazolla||Carlo "Sleppy" Pallazolla|
|1958||John Frontiero||Mike Calomo|
|1959||Frank Catania||Phil Curcuru|
|1960||Phil Curcuru||Frank Benson|
|1961||Not Held||Not Held|
|1962||Not Held||Not Held|
|1963||Phil Cucuru||Phil Cucuru|
|1964||Salvatore Testaverde||Joe "Black" Frontiero|
|1965||Phil Parisi & Phil Cucuru||Phil Cucuru & "Uncle" Salvatore Russo|
|1966||Tom "Wolfman" Cavanaugh||Tom "Wolfman" Cavanaugh|
|1967||Salvi Benson||Vito Calamo|
|1968||Salvi Benson||salvi benson|
|1969||Salvi Benson||Gaetano Carini|
|1970||Gaetano Carini||Pat Palmisano|
|1971||Salvi Benson||Salvi Benson|
|1972||Tom "Wolfman" Cavanaugh||Salvi Benson|
|1973||Tom "Wolfman" Cavanaugh||Salvi Benson|
|1974||Tom Wolfman" Cavanaugh||Salvi Benson|
|1975||Anthony "Matza" Giambanco||Anthony "Matza" Giambanco|
|1976||Gaetano Carini||Benny Interante|
|1977||Billy Mumbruno||Anthony "Matza" Giambanco|
|1978||Bobbi "Brother" Agostint||Anthony "Matza" Giambanco|
|1979||Joe Palmisano||Salvi Benson|
|1980||Paul Bertolini||Anthony "Matza" Giambanco|
|1981||Jerry Santuccio||Dom Verga|
|1982||Steve "Stubby" Asaro||Dom Verga|
|1983||Phil Verga||Jerry Santuccio|
|1984||Paul Nicastro||Peter "Black" Frontiero|
|1985||Tom Favazza||Dom Verga|
|1986||Jerry Ciolino||Scott Clayton|
|1987||Sam Frontiero||Peter "Black" Frontiero|
|1988||Anthony Saputo||Peter "Black" Frontiero|
|1989||Russell Hines||Peter "Black" Frontiero|
|1990||Johnny Corollo||Peter "Black" Frontiero|
|1991||Jerry Cusamano||Peter "Black" Frontiero|
|1992||Nico Brancaleone||Peter "Black" Frontiero|
|1993||Steve LaBlanc||Peter "Black" Frontiero|
|1994||Dave Foote||Steve LaBlanc|
|1995||Steve Gray||Chris Carlson|
|1996||John Parisi||Rich Hopkins|
|1997||Shawn Porper||Rich Hopkins|
|1998||Jason Puglisi||Nino Sanfillippo|
1999 to Current (Friday Competition Introduced)
|Year||Friday Winner||Saturday Winner||Sunday Winner|
|1999||Jake Wood||Jake Wood||Jake Wood|
|2000||Dean DeCoste||Jude LaFavour||Sammo Frontiero|
|2001||Phil Palmatieri||James Sanfillipo||Jogn "Glass" Parisi|
|2002||Sandi Palazzolo||Dean DeCoste||Jake Wood|
|2003||Steve Militello||Sandy Palazzolo||Jake Wood|
|2004||Stew McGillivray||Stew McGillivray||Peter "Black" Frontiero|
|2005||Vinny Parisi||Jimmy Silva||Jake Wood|
|2006||Danny Balbo Jr.||Vinny Parisi||Jake Wood|
|2007||Louis Perry||Joe Sanfillippo||Russell Hines|
|2008||Steve Williamson||John Church||Stew McGillivray|
|2009||Jason Favaloro||Joe Stelline||Stew McGillivray|
|2010||Joe Brancaleone||Peter Cannavo||Stew McGillivray|
|2011||Joseph "JoeyD" DaSilva||Kraig Hill||Ali D'Angelo|
|2012||Ross "Cliffy" Carlson||Nicky Avelis||Stew McGillivray|
|2013||Kyle Barry||Zach Allen||Nicky Avelis|
|2014||Jack Russ||Kyle Barry||Mark Allen|
The 2011 Greasy Pole Fall Classic
To help raise some of the money needed to replace the greasy pole platform that was damaged by tropical storm Irene, the Saint Peter's Fiesta Committee hosted the 2011 Greasy Pole Fall Classic at Gloucester High School's Newell Stadium. The competition featured three greasy poles, designated bronze, silver, and gold. This is expected to be the only Fall Classic, as the Greasy Pole is to be replaced with a platform that will last a century. The two time champ Joe DaSilva is the first person to ever win on sea and land, which earned him the nickname "Surf and Turf Champion."
|2011||Gold||Joe "JoeyD" DaSilva|
update: in 2012 Nick Avelis won Saturday's pole, and in 2013 Kyle Barry won Friday's pole, making all three "turf" champions "surf" champions as well (Avelis also won 2013 Sunday)
In 2009, CoffeeBlack Productions — the Gloucester filmmaking team of Emile Doucette, Thomas Papows, and Michael Pallazola — created a short 7-minute documentary about the Greasy Pole and its cultural significance in the small fishing community of Gloucester, Massachusetts.  The film won the Documentary Educational Resources Award at the International Documentary Challenge at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival. The group has plans to make a feature length version of the film due out in 2010.
As part of Queen's Engineering Frosh Week, the incoming first year engineering students must, with the help of the upper-year engineering students, climb to the top of a grease pole and remove a tam which is nailed to the pole's top. The Queen's Grease Pole is a metal football goalpost stolen by Queen's engineering students in 1955 from University of Toronto's Varsity Stadium. Currently, the pole is covered in lanolin and placed in the centre of a pit of muddy water referred to as the "Grease Pit", but from the first climbing of the pole in 1956 to 1988 the pole was covered in axle grease and it was only sometime between 1957 and 1967 that the pit was added to the event. There have been various other changes to the rules of the event since its inception, including the banning of the throwing of projectiles at the frosh attempting to climb the pole by upper years, removing unsanitary contents from the pit and allowing women to participate.
The Bear River Cherry Carnival in Bear River, Nova Scotia offers $100 every year to the first person to walk out their greased pole and grab a Canada flag nailed to the end of the pole. The greased pole is held at a different time every year as they have to schedule it for high tide so there will be water below the pole for competitors to fall into. After the first round, competitors have to make it over the second red ribbon to continue on. Competitors must fall 'clean'. That is, competitors who grab the pole when falling are immediately disqualified. David Isles of Bear River added his fourth win on July 13, 2013.
- In Spain, it is known as a cucaña.
- The traditional Philippine fiesta game of Palo-sebo is derived from the Spanish custom.
- In The Netherlands it is called sprietlopen.
- Byrne, Matt (1 October 2011). "Gloucester icon slips into history". boston.com. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
- Kaufman, Alexander C. (8 October 2011). "Gloucester to rebuild greasy pole". boston.com. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
- Fletcher, Steven (17 March 2012). "Greasy Pole dock, platform rebuilt". Gloucester Times. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
- Allen, Quinn (2009-05-14). "Trio brings home international prize » Local News » GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA". Gloucestertimes.com. Retrieved 2010-09-11.
- "Greasy History". Engsoc.queensu.ca. 1955-10-08. Retrieved 2010-09-11.
- "Detailed Events". Engsoc.queensu.ca. 1976-09-21. Retrieved 2010-09-11.
- Riley, Jonathan. "David Isles takes fourth flag at Cherry Carnival greased pole". Digby County Courier. Transcontinental Media. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
- "NK Sprietlopen". RTV Rijnmond. 2010-08-08. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
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