The Feast of San Gennaro, originally a one-day religious commemoration, arrived in the United States in September 1926 when immigrants from Naples congregated along Mulberry Street in the Little Italy section of Manhattan in New York City, to continue the tradition they had followed in Italy to celebrate Saint Januarius, the Patron Saint of Naples. His feast day is September 19 in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church.
The immigrant families on Mulberry Street who started the feast, a group of cafe owners, erected a small chapel in the street to house the image of their patron Saint. They invited all to partake of their wares, asking the devoted to pin an offering to the ribbon streamers that are hung from the statue's apron. This money was then distributed to the needy poor of the neighborhood. Over time, the festival expanded into an 11-day street fair organized and run by people outside the neighborhood. It is now an annual celebration of food and drink, and a major tourist attraction.
Centered on Mulberry Street, which is closed to traffic for the occasion, the festival generally features sausages, zeppole, street vendors, games, parades and other such attractions. The Grand Procession is held starting at 2 p.m. on the last Saturday of the feast, immediately after a celebratory Mass at the Church of the Most Precious Blood. This is a Roman Catholic candlelit procession in which the statue of San Gennaro is carried from its permanent home in the Most Precious Blood Church through the streets of Little Italy.
Another festival is held with the same attractions in New York City's other Little Italy, in the Fordham/Belmont community in the Bronx. The streets are closed to traffic, and the festivities begin early in the morning and proceed late into the night.
Similar festivals have also been sponsored in other cities, the most recent being Belmar, New Jersey. The Feast of San Gennaro of the Jersey Shore was founded in 2012 by Daniel Di Cesare, whose goal was to highlight the positive contributions of Italian Americans.
In 2002, Jimmy Kimmel, Adam Carolla, and Doug DeLuca founded the Feast of San Gennaro Los Angeles, which is now a major annual event held every September in Hollywood. Also, Tony Sacca brought The Feast of San Gennaro to the Las Vegas Valley, Nevada, in 1986. The event started small in a park, but due to its success moved to larger grounds. It is held twice a year, in the Spring and Fall. The Las Vegas, Nevada, festival has traditional Italian cuisine, carnival rides and games, and entertainers such as Emilio Baglioni and Louis Prima's daughter, Lena Prima.
In 2013, The San Gennaro Foundation Seattle was formed by the Mascio family to bring the San Gennaro Festival to Seattle, WA. Held the second week of September, it includes the processional of the Saint San Gennaro statue, live music and food. This three day festival is held in the heart of Georgetown, WA, where many of Seattle's Italian community settled when they first arrived in Seattle.
In 1994, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani declared that if the city's San Gennaro festival did not remove corrupt elements, he would shut it down. Before Giuliani's ultimatum, financial improprieties and mafia involvement had been exposed. A community group was formed to manage the festival. The municipal government asked it to hire a professional manager. It hired Mort Berkowitz to be the financial manager.
Street Vendors selling cheesesteak sandwiches, sausages and other foods lines the streets