This Saturday and Sunday, September 17 and 18, more than 10,000 visitors are expected in Belmar to celebrate the Feast of San Gennaro.
Much like the famous 11-day festival held in Manhattan’s Little Italy for the last 89 years, the fifth annual Belmar festival weekend will include music, food and fun for all ages.
San Gennaro honors the patron saint of Naples, Italy. His name in Latin was Januarius; Gennaro in Italian. He rose to Catholic Bishop of Benevento and was sentenced to death by the Roman Emperor Diocletian.
Italian immigrants brought the traditions of their martyred saint’s September 19 feast day to America.
In Belmar, a Mass of San Gennaro, recited in Italian, will open the festivities on Saturday at St. Rose Church at 10 am.
“Afterwards,” says event organizer Patti Baxter, “the whole crew will proceed down Main Street with a strolling band and place the statue of San Gennaro in its honored place.”
By tradition, celebrants pin money to the statue’s robe. The donations go to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic anti-poverty charity.
After the mass and march, the feasting begins with pasta, pizza and pastries, along with wine and beer.
“Much as everybody is said to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Italian for San Gennaro,” Baxter says. “People love to eat, and what do they love better than Italian?”
An abundance of sausages, zeppoli and fried calamari will be served.
A Saturday highlight will be the cannoli-eating contest sponsored by Ma’s Italian Specialties, a local store and caterer.
On Sunday, the pasta-eating challenge will have area dignitaries slurping down spaghetti provided by La Dolce Vita restaurant.
Each year the pasta-eating contest is made more challenging by requiring participants to abandon forks for tools such as chopsticks or wooden spoons.
“It’s gotta be sloppy,” says Baxter.
Bobby Ballack and the Jazz Lobsters Big Band will play swing and Sinatra tunes, and the Rhythm Stompers will offer dance demos and lessons to all.
“Come on down,” says Baxter, “to see what else, besides the beach, Belmar has to offer.”