Autumn in Belmar soon may be known as the season of Italy when the borough's first-ever Feast of San Gennaro celebration arrives next month.
Presented by Nicchio Ristorante, the feast, which originated in Little Italy in 1926 by newly arrived immigrants, will fill the streets of downtown Belmar Sept. 8 and 9 with Italian food, wine, music and culture, organizers said.
The feast gets its name from the patron saint of Naples, where the festival's originators came from, according to Dan Di Cesare, owner of and creator of the Belmar festival.
“They celebrated Italian food, wine and culture as a way of giving back to the community. We’re planning to do the same thing here in Belmar," Di Cesare said in a release.
The festival will benefit the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties and will feature plenty of Italian foods, wines, live entertainment, games and activities, starting with the traditional procession of the statue of San Gennaro, the release says.
Many area restaurants will extend their seating outdoors, the release says.
DeCisare said that "redefining the public image" of Italian-Americans at the Jersey Shore was a big motivation in developing the event.
“A lot of attention has recently been brought to the Jersey Shore and not all of it positive. Italian Americans have been responsible, important contributors to our society and culture - medicine, entertainment, sports and scientific advances. These two days are a way to remember the sacrifices our parents and grandparents made in helping to build this truly amazing country,” he said in the release.
“It’s an honor for Belmar to host the first San Gennaro Festival at the Jersey Shore,” Mayor Matt Doherty said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to show off our fantastic restaurants, welcoming small-town family atmosphere and all that’s great about the Jersey Shore.”
In addition to providing the area with food, wine and music, the festival also be an occasion to honor local officials of Italian-American descent, organizers said.
Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders will be recognized as the first Son of San Gennaro of the Jersey Shore, organizers said.
Maria Boccia, long-time Belmar resident and a past president of the Belmar Woman’s Club, will be honored as the Daughter of San Gennaro of the Jersey Shore, organizers said.
Joe Leone, one of Monmouth County’s leading caterers and purveyors of Italian foods and culture, is being recognized as the San Gennaro at the Jersey Shore Italian-American Businessperson of the Year, organizers said.