The Extravagance of the San Gennaro Festival

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The word "grand" comes to mind when thinking of Little Italy's annual Feast of San Gennaro, and for good reason. For starters, the 11-day extravaganza, which begins Sept. 15, is the longest-running, biggest outdoor festival in the city, attracting over one million people from all over the world. Add colorful parades, live entertainment ranging from Italian folk music to opera and rock, hundreds of vendors peddling everything from classic Italian street grub to jewelry, clothing and souvenirs, carnival games and a cannoli-eating competition, and you might start to think "grand" doesn't do the festival justice.

Walking through the seemingly endless red-, white- and green-adorned crowd of purveyors, pedestrians and onlookers, it's hard to picture the festival's humble beginnings 85 years ago. But at the heart of the festivities are the religious origins of the event-a celebration of the patron saint of Naples by the Italian immigrants who settled the area. To that effect, the festival includes religious processions, a celebratory mass and religious ornaments strewn throughout. But whether you come for the religious aspect, the zeppoles or just for the experience, there's something here for everyone.

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