Mulberry Street in Little Italy was jam-packed on Saturday as thousands flocked to the third day of the Feast of San Gennaro — the Patron Saint of Napoli.
Looking at the crowds, most unmasked, the jubilant consent among visitors and vendors was that “New York is back,” as the iconic feast — which stretches throughout 11 blocks of the Little Italy neighborhood and is rapidly approaching its 100th anniversary — returned on Sept. 16 after being canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
John Fratta, vice president of Figli di San Gennaro, said he felt fantastic that San Gennaro is back and the tradition is continuing. His great-grandfather was the first president of the festival, which started in 1926.
“Last year was a bummer for all of us,” Fratta said, referring to the cancellation of last year’s feast because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He urged people to be “smart” and wear a mask when visiting the feast this year.
“We had a lot of people coming out the first night,” Fratta shared. “It was much more crowded than it’s ever been. I think people just want to get out.”
For Kathy and Randall Slane from Park Slope, Brooklyn, it was the second time they attended the feast. The couple had moved from California in late 2019 and was looking forward to anything New York City offers, but then COVID-19 put a hold on their plans to explore the city last year.
“Oh man, it’s great to be out here and have everybody together. This is New York as far as I’m concerned,” Randall said.
“Especially after COVID. It’s nice to see everybody out,” Kathy added. “So for us, especially, it’s so nice to have the city back to normal.”
They weren’t too concerned about the Delta variant because both are vaccinated, and Kathy said she’s an avid hand washer.
“I think if you’re cautious and careful you’re safe,” Kathy said. “New York has such a high vaccination rate and low positivity rate right now, I think we both feel pretty safe.”
Luke McDonough, who attended the feast with his friends Lexy Leeds and Robbie Rice, claimed his Italian roots because his mom is Italian.
All of them are former Fordham students, and they used to go to the San Gennaro festival in the Bronx. But now they live on Mulberry Street, and McDonough joked that ten days might be a little long because when he has to go to work, “there are all these parties.”
“It’s a great festival celebrating my heritage, and I’m very happy to be here,” McDonough said. “I love it. I love the cigar smoke, all the guys. It’s fun.”
“It’s nice to see the city of New York back out on the streets,” Lexy Leeds added.
Ilana Buczyner immigrated from Italy when she was six years old. She declared that she loves Italian people. Her parents are Holocaust survivors, and the Italian people saved her life.
She still was worried about COVID-19, mainly because of the crowds on Mulberry Street, but said, “I like the variety of people in New York coming out. Stop the Corona.”
Vinny Scuzzese owns a basket toss booth, which he brought to NYC all the way from the Jersey Shore. He admitted that last year he was depressed because he didn’t know if he was coming back, but he felt good about this year’s turnout.
“I thought it was gonna be a little off, soft,” Vinny said. “But Thursday, Friday, and today’s very good. So far, people are coming out. So I’m happy about that.”
The feast runs through Sept. 26.