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Tony Danza's San Gennaro Meatball Contest Will Be Streamed Live to Italy

By Allegra Hobbs | September 14, 2016 8:45am
 The Feast of San Gennaro takes place every year on Mulberry Street in Little Italy.
The Feast of San Gennaro takes place every year on Mulberry Street in Little Italy.
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Feast of San Gennaro

LITTLE ITALY — The annual Feast of San Gennaro turns 90 this year — and to celebrate, it will be broadcast live for the first time in its Italian motherland. 

Organizers of the beloved neighborhood tradition are setting up cameras throughout the streets of Little Italy to document all 10 days of festivities honoring the patron saint of Naples for online viewers in Italy — a gesture unifying them with those observing the saint’s feast day overseas, according to an organizer.  

“We want the people from Italy to see how we do our feast,” said feast spokesman John Fratta. “It’ll be something different, having them be able to go on their computers and see the feast live, especially during our procession and our parade.”

Observers in Italy celebrate the saint on his feast day, Sept. 19, in accordance with the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar, explained Fratta. Festivities in New York City last far longer, beginning on Sept. 15 and continuing daily through Sept. 25.

The tradition began as a “little block party” brought to the city by Italian immigrants in 1926, said Fratta, whose great grandfather was among the feast’s founders. It has since swelled to become the largest Italian festival in the country, drawing revelers from around the world.

In addition to the webcams — which will trail the entire length of the festival, stretching along Mulberry Street between Canal and Houston Streets — the special anniversary edition of the festival will have a handful of new attractions, Fratta said. 

The festival’s cannoli-eating contest on Sept. 16 will be open to non-professional contenders for the first time. Prospective participants can register in advance on the feast’s website. 

On Sept. 24, television star Tony Danza will host the festival’s first-ever “Cha Cha” meatball eating contest at Ferrara’s on Grand Street, named for the late “Sopranos” actor John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia, who died in November. 

The main event — the procession down Mulberry Street — will take place, as always, on the saint’s feast day of Sept. 19, reinforcing the heart of the marathon festivities.

“We’re a religious festival,” said Fratta. “The real aspect of this feast and the most important aspect, is honoring Saint Gennaro.”

For more information about the festival and a full roster of events, visit the festival's website here.