Thousands of patrons from all over the Tampa Bay area and as far away as New York poured into the Safety Harbor Marina this weekend for the 10th annual San Gennaro Festa.
“This was a great turnout of people who came to share our Italian food and traditions, although you don’t have to be Italian to enjoy it,” event organizer Julie Calabrese said.
“I have to thank everybody for turning out, as well as the LIADO women, their husbands, all the volunteers and the city of Safety Harbor for making this event such a success.”
Tucked among the throng of attendees on Saturday was a gentleman from New York who had an interesting story about how he came to be at the festival.
Mike Solomito of Long Island attended a festa a few years ago while he was here visiting his sister-in-law, Safety Harbor resident Susan Strong.
According to Strong, Solomito loved the event so much that he rarely stopped talking about it, saying he wished he could make it back down someday.
His wish was granted when his family surprised him with an unexpected gift for his 75th birthday.
“I found out last Sunday when they surprised me at a birthday dinner up in New York,” Solomito said on Saturday.
“I got a festa tee shirt and a card with a round-trip ticket to Florida in it. I nearly fell off the chair when I opened it.”
Solomito’s enthusiasm for the event is impressive, considering New York is home to one of the biggest San Gennaro festa’s in the county.
The event is named in honor of the Italian bishop, known as the Patron Saint of Naples, who was killed and then considered a martyr by his people.
Seeing the many booths of authentic Italian foods, the entertaining mix of singers and performers coupled with wonderful weather and the scenic downtown Safety Harbor backdrop, it’s no surprise this event is a favorite with people from all over.
“Today, everybody is Italian,” Julie Calabrese’s husband Al noted.
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