The smell of peppers and sausage, with a hint of cigar, fills the lungs of crowded Mulberry Street. Everywhere you look, vendors are selling funnel cakes, zeppoli, fried Oreo’s, and cannoli’s- you can almost taste the oncoming of heart disease. This could only mean one thing- The Annual Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy, NYC.
Food trucks stretch on both sides of the street for blocks, all selling the famous festival foods that New Yorker’s and tourists alike, wait all year for. The Cannoli King vendors yell out “best cannolis in New York City” in their loud, thick Italian accents. The trucks selling sausage and peppers are lined with strings of red and green peppers dangling from the ceilings, prompting many photo ops by passerby.
Where there aren’t food trucks, there are carnival games and booths selling t-shirts and other Italian memorabilia. Shirts for sale read, “fuggedaboudit”, “Italian Princess”, and “I didn’t ask to be Italian, I just got lucky”. While walking through each block, different music is blared from the speakers on the sidewalks, often mismatching the atmosphere. One minute you’re listening to something from Billboard’s Top 100, and the next you’ve time traveled into an era where Rita Pavone is still entirely relevant. Interrupting the music, are carnival game dings and horns, along with the constant roar of hundreds of conversations combining into one unintelligible sound. Trying to lure in customers to spend $8 on a $3 stuffed animal, one game booth worker yells out, “If you guys wanna play a game, you can pick out any prize you want”. With this, full grown adults, not even kids, swarm to the game booth. In a normal environment, these same people would probably realize how much of a rip off this “deal” is, but the fumes of sausage, peppers, and fried everything has gotten into their heads, bringing them into the festival spirit.
Green, white, and red arches fill the space above the street, carefully placed every few feet within each other. Not only do these arches mark the vicinity of the festival, but they also assure that at no point in visiting the annual feast, are you allowed to forget that you’re in Italian territory. Although a party atmosphere, San Gennaro is meant to be a religious festival, celebrating the Patron Saint of Naples. Among the food trucks, booths, and carnival games, you can find the Statue of San Gennaro, guarded safely behind two very big, Italian looking men. People stand and pose for pictures among the crowd.
Continuing up Mulberry Street, deflating Superman bounce houses and inflatable slides fill up one of the side streets. The sound of kids screaming and laughing fills the air. An old Ferris wheel sits between a brick building and the crowd of people in the streets. A booth sits in front of it with huge letters reading, “TICKETS” in bright lit up fluorescent colors of red, blue, and yellow. Each car fills up with little bodies that feet cannot yet touch the ground, leaving their legs kicking with excitement in the air as the wheel slowly moves counterclockwise.
During the 11 day Feast of San Gennaro, the mood is entirely different on Mulberry Street than the rest of the year. Yes, you can still get some pretty decent Italian food, but you’ll miss out on the festival flavor that San Gennaro offers.
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