When the many tourists that flood the luxurious Hamptons area in the spring and summer months are gone, Hamptons locals search for ways to keep the flow of income as heavy as possible to make it through the slow fall and winter months. The San Gennaro Feast of the Hamptons was brought to Hampton Bays for the eighth year in a row to promote local vendors and bring more attention to small local businesses.
The celebration of San Gennaro first began in the United States 92 years ago, in Little Italy in New York City. At first it was just a religious event, but eventually, it became an 11-day street fair, drawing more than one million people annually to New York City.
Sicanni Purizaca, a vendor based in Greenport, sells music, handmade flutes and jewelry influenced by Native American culture to cope with the drastic change in income flow.
“Winter is slow and after Christmas, the income dives down to about 90 percent here, so in November I leave to Florida and I come back in March,” Purizaca said.
San Gennaro, or Saint Januarius, was the Bishop of Benevento and patron saint of Naples, Italy and died circa the year 305. The legend says that San Gennaro helped many Christians during their persecution under Emperor Diocletian, until one day he got caught and arrested. He was tortured, but he avoided death twice. The saint was first thrown into a furnace but he walked out, alive and untouched by the flames. He also cheated death when he emerged unharmed after having been thrown in the amphitheater with bears. On the following day, Sept. 19, he was ordered to be beheaded and martyred. On the day of San Gennaro’s beheading, it is believed a woman collected two vials of his blood.
This relic is now in one glass vial in the Naples Cathedral. His blood liquefies three times a year, on Sept. 19, Dec. 16 and the Saturday before the first Sunday of May. It is believed that when his blood liquefies on these days, it is good luck. If it doesn’t, it’s a warning that tough times will be ahead.
The San Gennaro Feast of the Hamptons has much to enjoy for all who attend, including live music from bands like Penny Lane, a Beatles tribute band, eating contests, a Fiat raffle and tons of vendors. The festival kicked off on Saturday, Sept. 29 at noon and continued through Sunday, Sept. 30 at 8 p.m. This is the last festival of the year in the area before the cold winter months sweep in.
The smell of Nutella crepes, zeppoles and steak-onion sandwiches drifted between the booths, beckoning for people to take a bite, but the next day the streets will be barren and there will be no street vendors, local eateries or tourists walking around.
Su Gilmore, a Hampton Bays-based vendor, said she’s glad the festival is out in the East End. “It’s good name recognition,” Gilmore said. Despite the attention that this festival may bring to the Hamptons, the Hamptons-themed decorative products and jewelry she sells still doesn’t help her cash flow during the slower winter months.
“It is not unusual that migrant cultures modify traditions that come from the places of departures of migrants,” Simone Brioni, a professor in the department of cultural studies and comparative literature, said. Despite San Gennaro representing general Italian culture here in the United States, in Italy, it’s not as widespread. “I can say that this saint is not celebrated in Northern Italy,” Brioni said. “It seems to me this celebration involves mostly the city of Naples.”
Chris and Nicole Stroud of Nikki’s Candle Shop in New City drove all the way from Rockland County, a three-hour drive away, to sell their handcrafted 3D refillable candle art. The fragrant candles hit you with a whiff of sweetness with rich, velvety and spicy fragrant notes.
“We do very well, the drive is definitely worth it for us. We spend a lot of time out in the island,” Nicole Stroud said. “This is our busy time, from now through Christmas.”
Despite how hard it can be to brave the slow, cold fall and winter months in the area, monetarily or otherwise, some people can’t resist its charm, especially when festivals and feasts such as San Gennaro come to town. However, after the festival ends, it will be just another town on Long Island waiting for spring and summer to come and the tourists to come back.