Get Your Appetite On: It’s Time for the Sixth Annual Italian Heritage Festival!
Author: Carmen Hawkins DeCecco
Benvenuti alla sesta edizione del premio annuale Italian Heritage Festival in onore della Festa di San Gennaro! Or, “Welcome to the Sixth Annual Italian Heritage Festival in honor of the Feast of San Gennaro!” Held by the Italian-American Club of Hilton Head (IACHH), the festival has grown by leaps and bounds to an estimated 3,500 attendees in 2014. The number of sponsors and vendors has also expanded, with many returning year after year.
Local vendors offer everything from Italian-inspired dishes prepared on-site by the island’s best Italian chefs, to food preparation demonstrations, as well as various tents featuring hand-crafted ceramics and art.
“I recommend everyone bring their appetite and sense of humor,” said IACHH president, John DeCecco (who occupied the dunk tank for several years before it became somewhat undignified when he became president).
And money. Don’t forget to bring your money, knowing that it will be spent on a great day outside at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn and will go towards local charities and fund scholarships for Bluffton Hilton Head High School students.
Some of the activities include a kids’ zone with lots of inflatable fun; live entertainment by Larry Tannelli; grape-stomping and pizza eating contests; a bocce court; and a silent auction featuring everything from gift certificates to local restaurants, Italian-themed gift baskets, jewelry, handbags, and other wares from local businesses.
Begun six years ago, and held at Shelter Cove Community Park, the focus was always Italian cultural awareness and traditions, blended with commitment to the local community, which benefits from the proceeds.
“We listen to what attendees want and focus on bringing back favorites, while introducing new businesses and products each year,” said festival chair, Paul Caimano.
Two returning favorites are traditional Italian pastries—cannolis and zeppolis—handmade on the premises. The zeppolis are so popular; it’s best to get there early, as the line for the freshly prepared delights (a deep-fried, cream-stuffed pastry) can extend for quite a distance.
Warning: history lesson to follow.
The Feast of San Gennaro (Italian for St. Januarius), honors the Catholic legend of a young martyred priest in 305 AD. His blood, held sealed in vials for a thousand years, began a process of “melting” and then re-coagulating in the late fourteenth century. Three times a year, this phenomenon of liquefaction (considered impossible by scientists) appeared. The miracle then began occurring five times a year, leading to his canonization. He is the principle patron saint of Naples, and the inspiration for the annual parade on Mulberry Street in New York City.
The Feast of San Gennaro has been made famous in several films, such as Coppola’s The Godfather, Part Two, and Scorsese’s Mean Streets. (Both films employed the parade as a backdrop to scenes of carnage committed by the narrative’s main characters—a subconscious nod to the legacy of San Gennaro’s “blood miracle”? One can only guess.)
The next expected appearance of the miracle of liquefaction is September 19, 2015, the same day as Hilton Head’s homage to the saint at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn. From 11 a.m.-4 p.m., at a cost of $6/person, all are invited to attend this exciting event, knowing that while we’re having a blast eating and drinking and playing, cardinals, nuns, and possibly the pope will be staring transfixed at two vials of old blood.
So where would you rather be?