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    Posted September 15, 2013 by
    beachtar
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    The Timeless Attraction of NYC’s Feast of San Gennaro

     

    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     beachtar photographed the Feast of San Gennaro festival in New York City's Little Italy on September 14. He says the feast is a two-week festival, but one of the biggest highlights of the event is the Grand Procession, which is parade that makes it way through the streets adorned with floats, marching bands, and entertainers.
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    While New York’s Little Italy continues to get, well, littler its annual signature event the Feast of San Gennaro continues to grow. Italian Americans were once the predominate ethnic group in this swath of lower Manhattan bounded by Canal Street on the south, Houston Street on the north, the Bowery on the east and Broadway on the west. Like the polar ice caps, however, the Italian section of the neighborhood has shrunk to about a five-block stretch of Mulberry Street where you’ll still find a couple of dozen Italian restaurants and pastry shops. Elizabeth Street, Mott Street and the surrounding area now teem with people from a host of Asian countries, as Chinatown has pushed ever-further north.

    Despite the changing demographics, people from the entire New York tri-state area and beyond have flocked to the feast in increasing numbers in recent years. Once confined almost exclusively to a half mile of Mulberry Street in the heart of Little Italy, this two-week festival has expanded and today food, games, rides and wares can be found on nearly every side street along the route.

    Yesterday, on the first Saturday of the feast, the Grand Procession traveled up Mulberry Street. Floats, marching bands, music and the Statue of San Gennaro paraded through the streets, lead by this year’s Grand Marshal, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo. With the street packed shoulder to shoulder, the procession brought to mind the running of the bulls, as the floats and bands forced people up against sausage stands and onto the sidewalk. In New York, where parade crowds are usually tightly controlled, the chaos created an atmosphere of tremendous excitement and joy.

    Sitting for a moment on a bench on Hester Street, I began speaking with a 78-year-old man originally from Naples. After giving me his recipe for clam sauce, he waved his hand dismissively at the $8 sausage sandwiches and $4 cannolis and said, “Business.” Seventy years ago he told me people leaned out their windows talking and opera poured from their apartments. Today he said, “It’s all business.”

    There’s little doubt that the character of the feast has changed since it began as a one-day religious commemoration, started by newly arrived immigrants from Naples in 1926. But it’s just as certain that the allure of this fortnight event is enduring as ever as evidenced by crowds of people in sardine can conditions eating, drinking and being merry.
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