By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY - On the weekend of Sept. 14 and 15, the square of the Port St. Lucie Civic Center will have the sounds and tastes of Italy as the San Gennaro Festival takes place.
While the San Gennaro Festival is celebrating its 86th year in Little Italy in New York, this is the second year the festival is in St. Lucie County.
"We had a great turnout last year with more than 6,000 people attending," said Sandra Liscio, chairwoman for the event.
"The community really welcomed and supported it."
The festival began here when a group of Italians now living in the area decided to do this.
"We really wanted to bring the tradition down here and keep it going," she said.
One of the big changes this year is that the festival is on Friday and Saturday, instead of Saturday and Sunday.
The event will open at noon on Sept. 14, with live music starting at 4 p.m. with different performers every hour.
On Saturday, a Catholic Mass will take place at 10 a.m., followed by the blessing of the new statue of San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples, Italy.
"Unfortunately, the statue cracked in a number of places," she said. "We ordered a true, traditional statue from Naples, Italy, which will be unveiled at the blessing."
After the blessing, there will be a procession around the village square.
The original 6-foot statue was carved out of wood and will be properly retired.
Food lovers will not be disappointed, as there will be a selection of Italian specialty foods, drinks, pastries and gelato.
There will even be a cannoli-eating contest at 3:45 p.m. and a pizza-eating contest at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Italian music will fill the air as singers, dancers and bands will take the stage throughout the weekend.
On Friday, the entertainment kicks off with Joe & Ray at 2 p.m. Other performers include D.J. Luigi, Kelly & Frank, Xtreme 3, Nino Cordaro and Erminio Spalla.
On Saturday, the entertainment continues with True Crew Dance Company, Michele Anastasio and Scott "Elvis" Norton, to name just a few.
"We will have tents set up, along with tables and chairs," Ms. Liscio said. "Everyone is invited to stay and enjoy the day."
There will also be a variety of arts and crafts vendors, as well as retail vendors.
The nonprofit organization, the San Gennaro Festival Society of Port St. Lucie, is also encouraging festivalgoers to bring canned or nonperishable items to the festival for the Treasure Coast Food Bank.
"It helps those in need," she said. "It's all from the heart."
The festival has even received attention from all over the state.
"I've had notification of people traveling here from Longboat Key, Orlando and Ocala," she said. "It's a fun event, and it's all about family. It will be a great time."
The event will be held from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday. Admission and parking are free.
The Port St. Lucie Civic Center is located at 9221 S.E. Civic Center Place in Port St. Lucie.
For more information, go online to www.sangennarofestivalpsl.com.