This week I had decided to find some kind of happy story to counter all that awful Syria stuff.
At a local restaurant, an announcement was made about the San Gennaro Feast in Las Vegas. I’d heard of this event for years, but finally, tired of TV news, the idea of going to something called a “feast” suddenly sounded like a great idea. (Yeah, yeah, while eating one dinner, a person gets excited about a feast? Something is definitely wrong here.)
Preparing for my visit, I learned that the San Gennaro Feast is actually a five-day Italian food and music festival. This “love affair with Italy” is named after the patron saint of Napoli, Italy, San Gennaro. Though the Feast has a 34-year history in Las Vegas, I would be a total newcomer.
I came away from the San Gennaro Feast more impressed than I can say. The event is HUGE…bigger than many of the conventions I attend…with food and entertainment that surely can stop anyone from being bored, hungry or Syria-weary.
I am not Catholic so I don’t now my “feast” history, but I learned that when Neopolitans migrated to New York, they brought their beloved Saint Gennaro Feast with them. The Palmisano family then brought the San Gennaro Feast to Las Vegas. Their company, Royal Festivals Inc., plans a year in advance for each of its twice-a-year local San Gennaro celebrations of food, fun and music.
As you will see in the accompanying video, the Feast has entertainment for all ages and more food than I’ve ever before seen in one place. What impressed me was the size of everything, the sophistication and bright lights of many of the games and rides and the general good feeling wherever music was playing. The electrical needs of the place were tremendous and must have employed every electrician in town. I was stepping over those bumpers that hide electrical lines all evening.
When I was in line for roasted corn ($4 and delicious), the lady behind me told me she works in one of the non-food booths. She said that the torrential rain that came Wednesday night was terrible. “Nobody made any money,” she said. “All that food they had prepared was wasted.” (The rain produced flood warnings throughout the Las Vegas valley.) The Feast closed down Wednesday at 8 p.m. instead of 11 p.m., but the Feast did have some activity for the day, including a visit from Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman. By Thursday night at 7 p.m., however, no one would have known a storm had happened. All the lights were on, the aisles were dry, food was steaming, and the entertainment flowed.
I didn’t buy a dinner at the Feast; I was too busy looking around. But the seats and tables near the food vendors were quite full. I could also have shopped…for sports memorabilia, jewelry, clothing, religious icons, mattresses, pillows, Cadillacs, cell phones, etc. I could have talked with the priest who was standing by the images of San Gennaro. I could have opted for a massage or a health food lecture. I could have subscribed to the Review-Journal. I could have played games and ridden upside down. I could even have had a photo taken with a snake. I did get the impression that a family would be advised to bring a fair amount of money when attending the Feast. The best “value” for ride tickets was 80 tickets for $70. On the other hand, the family could create a San Gennaro memory without having to drive to Anaheim.
Liquor is served at the Feast and maybe more beer and wine drinkers would be evident on the weekends, but on Thursday night, the crowd seemed more the type to order soft drinks and lemonade: lots of families and lots of strollers.
My recommendation (and this is for folks of all ages): when you see an ad for the San Gennaro Feast next May or September, take a ride on the I-215. Get off at Flamingo; turn left on Grand Canyon Drive; bring money, and you’ll have a great time. See more photos from past San Gennaro Feast articles: 2010 and 2005.