by Madalyn Johnson, Asst. A&E Editor
On Saturday, September 21, the Manhattan College Italian Club visited the biggest Italian block party of NYC in no other than Little Italy. Students gathered on one of the last days of the festival to educate themselves on the history of San Gennaro and how it originated all while enjoying the raved, authentic Italian food and free entertainment.
For its 93rd year, New York City closed Mulberry so people could celebrate the patron Saint of Naples through music, carnival games, Italian cuisine, and other lively events. At the beginning of the festival, festival traditions such as “The Blessing of the Stands” took place where a marching band followed a group of Priests who blessed the stands at the San Gennaro festival with Holy Water, wishing upon the people good luck and fulfilling experience. Additionally, popular and favorable events, like eating contests, went on as they have in previous years. These included the annual cannoli eating contest, the meatball eating competition, and, for the first time at San Gennaro, the zeppole eating contest.
The history of the San Gennaro festival dates back to 1926 when, before it was a grand celebration filled with festive and fun activities, was a one-day religious commemoration. Immigrants from Naples would gather in the U.S. and bring their tradition of honoring San Gennaro to Mulberry street and celebrate. Now almost a century later, San Gennaro has become one of the biggest Italian American festivals known in the U.S.
Nick Balzano, event coordinator, Lauren Spagnuolo, secretary, Nick DeNardo, treasurer, Marc Landino, vice president, and Danielle Porco, president, are the board members of the MC Italian Club who organized the planned trip to San Gennaro. The turnout for the event was filled with a variety of students ranging from freshman to seniors who all shared an interest in learning more about Italian culture and generally about the Italian Club at Manhattan College. Danielle discussed how the experience of traveling to San Gennaro strengthened connections between members of the club. “The group that went from the Italian Club got to know each other more and experience a piece of Italian-American culture in Little Italy” she shared. “I think what differed this year in comparison to last year was that members got to meet and know each other, as well as the board prior to the event. I think that students looking to learn more about Italian-American culture, and to just meet new people and have new experiences, should join the club”. Nick also sided with Danielle in the fact that the Italian Club, regardless of a student’s cultural background, is a great way to learn about another culture, and about the iconic city, Manhattan College was found in. “It gives you an insight into the culture of a people who built New York. It’s a good experience to meet new people and make new friends.”
Sophomore Jana Clark, who attended the festival with the Italian Club, enjoyed her first experience walking around Mulberry, witnessing all various types of Italian music and entertainment in addition to being able to try some out of the many Italian foods San Gennaro has to offer to the public. “I had a great time going to the San Gennaro festival for the first time to experience Italian culture within New York. I couldn’t help but indulge in a delicious slice of pizza and cannoli from one of the many food vendors at the festival. I’m already excited to go back next year!” Another student from MC described her participation in San Gennaro with the Italian Club as energetic and, overall, a positive time. “It was good, it was fun. There was great food. It was a vibrant experience.”