New York City's best known and longest running street festival, The Annual Feast of San Gennaro has taken place every September in Little Italy since 1926. The feast began when newly arrived immigrants from Naples continued the tradition they had followed in Italy, celebrating the day in 305 A.D. when Saint Gennaro was martyred for the faith.
Since then, the Feast has grown from a one-day street party to a gala 11-day-plus event in mid-September that attracts over one million people to the area. During the festival, activities take place along Mulberry Street, Hester Street and Grand Street, from 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. (to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays). The streets are decorated with festive banners and arches in the colors of the Italian flag. In addition, there are more than 300 street vendors who set up shop along the Festival Streets selling a wide variety of goods and merchandise. The Feast also has a number of arcade games as well as many fun activities for children, including carnival rides. And of course many of Little Italy's most famous Italian restaurants roll out the red carpet for Feast visitors, offering a variety of Italian specialty foods and pastries.
Sad but true: In recent years, the festival has lost much of its original character and now isn't much more than a two-week street festival with the usual tube sock and funnel cake vendors, making it hardly worth a special trip.
Insider Tip: On September 19 during each Feast, a Religious Procession begins immediately following a celebratory Mass held at the Most Precious Blood Church on Mulberry Street, the National Shrine of San Gennaro. The procession includes the Statue of San Gennaro, and winds along the length of Mulberry and Mott Streets, between Canal and Houston Streets. The Feast is presented by Figli di San Gennaro(Children of San Gennaro), a not-for-profit community organization which has produced and operated the Feast since 1996.