San Gennaro Fest Brings Italian Heritage to Montville
Four-day festival combines fun with fundraising.
Being Italian means more to many than the figures seen on the television lately.
To some, being Italian is about heritage and family and to others, it is cultural.
"It means eating and drinking like a king," Anthony Malanga, a Montville UNICO committee member said during the first Montville UNICO San Gennaro Feast and festival Thursday night.
Montville UNICO will be hosting the four-day event, which began Thursday, behind the Montville Township Public Library, bringing carnival rides, Italian food and games to the community in celebration of the Patron Saint of Naples. Proceeds from ticket sales, rides and earned through games will help support the organization which, in turn, supports children and neighbors in need through educational grants and food drive programs.
Montville UNICO decided to sponsor the event in the absence of Montville Day as a way to bring Montville residents together. Malanga also said that if the event is succesful, hosting the San Gennaro Feast in the future will help support the organization throughout the year. So far on Thursday, Malanga said things were looking good.
"There were a lot more people here than I thought we'd get on the opening night," he said.
One thing many attendees had in common was their Italian background. Dan Kay, of Suffern, was selling Italian goods at the event and as customers approached asking to purchase "the peppers," he explained the meaning of what he said was actually known as "the horn."
"The horn is to keep away the evil," he said. "It's a defense mechanism."
By Italian tradition, the horn is not supposed to be purchased by the person using it, but by someone else, Kay said. This goes along with the concept of one person helping another.
Helping others is the mission of Montville UNICO and Turkeys 4 U, a non-profit volunteer organization based in Kinnelon that partners with Montville UNICO to offer turkeys to families in need during Thanksgiving. Nicole Schmitt, 17, and Shannon Wheeler, 15, both of Kinnelon, were working the water gun game at the carnival to raise money for the organization.
"We're just here to support a cause," Wheeler said.
Other attendees, like Michelle Maddalena, another Montville UNICO member, said being Italian reminds them of family. Montville UNICO's motto is even "our family helping your family."
Maddalena said the group worked hard together for the past three months to organize the San Gennaro event. With several days left, Maddalena said she looks forward to more, similar events with Montville UNICO in the future.
"We just love doing stuff like this because we can give back to the community," she said.