Bocce bumps out insult clown at San Gennaro Feast


By Lincoln Anderson

The 85th Annual Feast of San Gennaro kicked off in Little Italy on Thurs., Sept. 15, and runs through Sun., Sept. 25.

This year, in a first, the block of Mulberry St. between Prince and Houston Sts. features a free, sand-filled bocce court, with balls waiting to be tossed. It’s part of what’s being called San Gennaro Gateway North — an effort to make the feast’s northernmost block a quieter cultural spot, along the lines of a traditional Italian piazza.

There are also picnic tables, where people can eat their sausage sandwiches or other festival fare. Plus, live musical performances occur on nine of the festival’s 11 days on the steps of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral every evening around 7 p.m. and on some afternoons. A raffle offers a chance to win a Vespa scooter.

On Saturday, an arts group created a sculptural piece on this block, intended to mirror the traditional San Gennaro arches to the south.

As usual, sausages are on the menu, and the festival is drawing tourists in droves.

San Gennaro Gateway North is being produced by the nonprofit Two Bridges Neighborhood Council.

Below Prince St. there are the usual food vendors and games, in which players can win prizes like stuffed dolls.

An effort earlier this year to keep the festival south of Kenmare St. was unsuccessful. Residents and merchants at Mulberry St.’s northern end had argued the 11-day extravaganza was killing their quality of life and business. Games like “Dunk the Clown” — with a Don Rickles-style character yelling zingers at the crowd — were disrupting the neighborhood too much, they said. At this year’s festival, there are no vendors or games north of Prince St.

The feast runs along Mulberry St. between Canal and Houston Sts. and along Grand and Hester Sts. between Mott and Baxter Sts.

Another lucky winner at the feast, judging by his stuffed doll.