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BY JOSEPH M. CALISI
The 92nd-annual Feast of San Gennaro on Little Italy’s Mulberry Street kicked off last week, fittingly, with a feast.
The 11-day feast presented by the Figli di San Gennaro (Sons of Saint Gennaro) from Sept. 13 through Sept. 23 started with a cannoli-eating contest at the corner of Grand and Mott streets.
Winner Wayne Algenio downed 33 cannolis in 10 minutes to take the creamy crown, barely beating out the runner-up’s 32 in a true photo finish.
A major highlight of the feast was Saturday afternoon’s parade which featured the grand marshal and several floats. This year’s grand marshal was comedian and actor Vic DiBetetto.
As a youth, DiBetetto worked on his father’s sanitation truck and later moved on to driving a school bus. It was during his off-hours as a bus driver he began doing standup comedy on the side. Eventually, DiBetetto became known world-wide for his role as Gino Chizetti in the 2015 movie “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” with Kevin James.
DiBetetto summed up his experience with, “The American dream is still alive. It’s surreal, and it is not who you know but who knows you. Never give up, never.”
A poignant moment in the parade came when the float for the Italian American Museum bearing founder and president Joseph Scelsa sailed past the corner of Grand and Mulberry streets the museum currently calls home. The construction for the new museum is scheduled to begin after the conclusion of the San Gennaro feast.
“The target date for reopening is the winter of 2019 – about a year from now,” Scelsa said.
As always, while the San Gennaro feast is a happy occasion, it also marks the end of the street fair season as summer officially ends on Sept. 22 with the Autumnal Equinox.