88th Annual Feast of San Gennaro to Kick Off September 11 in Little Italy
The 88th Annual Feast of San Gennaro, New York City's longest-running, biggest and most revered religious outdoor festival, will take place for 11 days starting Thursday, September 11 and continuing through Sunday, September 21, 2014, it was announced today by Joseph Mattone, President of Figli di San Gennaro (Children of San Gennaro), the not-for-profit community organization which has operated the Feast since 1996. The Feast is held annually on the streets of historic Little Italy, the lower Manhattan neighborhood which served as the first home in America for many thousands of Italian immigrants seeking a better life in the early years of the 20th century.
Those early pioneers, many of whom came from Naples, also brought with them their rich customs and religious heritage, including their love and adoration for San Januarius (San Gennaro), the Patron Saint of Naples who was martyred for the faith. The first Feast in New York City was a one-day celebration on September 19, 1926, the Official Feast Day of San Gennaro. The celebrants brought out tables and chairs from their crowded apartments on Mulberry Street, and spent the day eating their favorite Italian delicacies and desserts and washing them down with homemade Italian wines. The event concluded in the evening when they moved down the street and into Most Precious Blood Church on Mulberry Street where they celebrated a Mass in honor of their Patron Saint.
Today, 88 years later, the same traditions continue but the event has now grown into an international celebration that continues for 11 days and is attended by nearly two-million people of all ages who come from countries all across the globe. It has truly become "a "major happening." The Feast is held in an area of Little Italy that encompasses
seven blocks along Mulberry Street between Canal and Houston Streets, and four additional blocks on Hester and Grand Streets between Mott and Baxter Streets. More than 200 vendors sell or display their wares in stalls that line both sides of the Feast's 11 city blocks.
The Feast is held 11:30 AM to 11:30 PM Sundays through Thursdays, and 11:30 AM to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The streets are decorated with festive banners and arches in green, white and red. Restaurants, many of them New York City landmarks, roll out the red carpet for Feast visitors, providing outdoor dining areas and delicious specialty foods and pastries. Some restaurants even have strolling musicians to entertain their customers.
The area's Italian restaurants and cafes obtain special city and state permits that allow them to serve Italian food delicacies, beer and wine in specified outdoor seating areas set up directly in front of their establishments. In addition, vendors operate stalls throughout the Feast selling favorites such as sausage and pepper sandwiches, zeppoles, calzones, cannoli, gelatos, pizzas and pastas. There are also carnival games and rides.
This year's Feast officially opens on Thursday, September 9, following four days of pre-Feast preparation activities when local merchants and outside vendors construct their exhibit spaces and outdoor cafes, set-up their games of chance and entertainment rides and the Feast producers erect a large FIAT Performance Stage at the corner of Mott and Grand Streets. The stage is used every day and night of the Feast for free cooking and food demonstrations (daytime) and nightly free performances featuring singers and bands entertaining audiences with live music ranging from opera to rock 'n roll to Italian folk songs.
The two Saturday nights feature three-hour live radio broadcasts from 7 to 10 PM: on Saturday, September 13, WCBS-FM Radio and its on-air personality Joe Causi will broadcast live, and on Saturday, September 20, Cousin Brucie (Bruce Morrow) will originate his Sirius Satellite Radio music program featuring guest artists and celebrities from the stage.
On Opening Day (Thursday, September 11), the Feast will present a 9/11 Musical Remembrance Ceremony on the FIAT Performance Stage featuring singers Patrick Hale and Theresa Sareo. The traditional Blessing of the Stands will begin at 6 PM when the Pastor of Most Precious Blood Church -- the National Sanctuary of San Gennaro -- will lead a group of priests in a procession through the streets blessing vendors and café, restaurant and boutique owners.
Other Feast highlights include: the Grand Procession on Saturday, September 13, at 2 PM, with Parade floats, a rolling gondola, the Giglio Band, the Cathedral High School All Girls Marching Band and the Red Mike Festival Band (which has performed at every Feast of San Gennaro in NYC since 1927). The Grand Procession, which begins at the corner of Canal and Mott Streets, will feature a number of dignitaries and celebrities, among them David Mazouz, who portrays young Bruce Wayne in "Gotham," a new action-adventure drama series, which premieres on Fox Television on September 22, and Miss Italia New York (Nadia Manginelli) and the 2009 Miss Italia USA (Christina Marraccini). For opera lovers, the Feast will present its 15th Annual Enrico Caruso Opera Night on Thursday, September 18. And for those who love eating competitions, the 13th Annual Feast Cannoli Eating Competition, sponsored by Ferrara Bakery and sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eaters, will take place on the stage on Friday, September 13, at 2 PM. The annual Pizza Eating Contest will also take place on the stage on Tuesday, September 16, at 3 PM.
On the Official Feast Day -- Friday, September 19 -- there will be a Concelebrated Mass in honor of San Gennaro at 6 PM in Most Precious Blood Church followed by a Religious Procession with the Statue of San Gennaro at 7 PM. The annual Feast of San Gennaro Blood Drive will be held on Sunday, September 21, from 11:30 AM to 6:30 PM in the Youth Center of The Basilica of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral at 268 Mulberry Street. All donors will be given free cannoli courtesy of Mulberry Street's famous. Caffe Palermo.
Musical entertainers include: Gianni Russo, Jenna Esposito, Vito and The Elegants, Teo, Tre Bella, Jimmy Aleva, Johnny Mandolin, Just Friends, The Emotions, The Classics, Nostalgia, Marco Pisano, Rocco Mesito, Francesca Cavalieri and a special musical presentation, "Experience Sicily with Allison Scola and Villa Patagonia," a performance by singer Allison Scola and multifaceted guitarist Joe Ravo, on Friday, September 19 at 1 PM, a delightful presentation about Sicily and a performance featuring their original eclectic acoustic pop and traditional Sicilian folk song.
f that isn't enough to make this year's Feast memorable, Ferrara's Bakery is going to try and set the world record by creating a giant cannoli - the biggest one ever made. "I've been told that the largest cannoli ever made was 12 - feet long and weighed 300 pounds," says Ernest LePore, Ferrara's owner. The giant cannoli will be unveiled to the public on Saturday, September 20, at 3 PM in front of Ferrara's on Grand Street between Mott and Mulberry Streets. As the old saying goes: "Be there or Be Square!"
"The Feast of San Gennaro holds a special place in the hearts of Italians everywhere," says Joseph Mattone. "It is a festive period of faith and redemption, a time for remembrance and reconciliation, and a time for celebration. The Feast brings Little Italy to the world and the world to Little Italy."
Figli di San Gennaro, Inc., the community-based, not-for-profit charitable organization, distributes its financial support to children and parochial schools throughout the Archdiocese of New York. To date, it has donated more than $1.8 million from the Feasts since 1996 to causes supporting children and education
Joseph Mattone is President of the Figli di San Gennaro Board of Directors. Other members of the Board include: Vivian Catenaccio, Vice President; Anthony Cannataro, Angelo DiGangi, John Fratta, The Hon. Joseph G. Golia, Ernest Magliato, Robert Marshall, Vita Sabella and Patricia Valentino.
To date, this year's sponsors of the 88th Annual Feast of San Gennaro include: FIAT, AMTRAK, Peroni, Wanda Maria Designs, Silverleaf Resorts, Miss Italia USA Pageant, WCBS FM 101.1, 92.3 AMP Radio, Fresh 102.7 FM, Sirius XM Satellite Radio, KTU, Z100, NY Daily News, City Guide, Italian Tribune, and the Lt. Joseph Petrosino Lodge of the Order of Sons of Italy (OSIA) in New York City's Little Italy.
For more information, call 212/768-9320 or visit www.sangennaro.org.