SAFETY HARBOR — If you don't have an Italian grandmother, check out the San Gennaro Festa at the Safety Harbor Marina Park this weekend. It's a great opportunity to enjoy the culinary skills of someone else's.
Italian food, music, grape stomping, puppet shows, fireworks and much more make up this February fest that pays homage to San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples, said to protect the Italian city from natural disasters and plagues.
The fare Italia includes meatball sandwiches, pasta fagioli (bean soup), zeppoli (fried donuts with powdered sugar), pizzelles (waffle cookies), antipasto on a stick, antipasto salad and meatballs to go.
Wash it all down with some full-bodied Italian wine.
All food items sold at LIADO booths are $5 and under, said Barbara Abela, coordinator of the event and vice president of LIADO, a local organization for Italian-American women that organizes the annual event. It has an active membership of more than 150, she said.
"We encourage visitors to patronize the LIADO booths because it helps us do what we do best — help others through charity," she said.
Proceeds benefit organizations that serve those with autism, Alzheimer's and childhood cancer.
"We have also given over $80,000 to date in scholarship funds to worthy Italian-American students," said Abela.
The event begins at noon on Saturday with a traditional religious procession from the park's fountain to the stage near the waterfront. Then reverence turns to revelry with activities for children, bocce ball, street performers, genealogy experts, and meatball- and cannoli-eating contests.
A fireworks celebration is slated for Saturday at 9 p.m. in honor of the event's 10th anniversary.
Italian-themed entertainment, which includes tarantella dancers and comedy opera, takes place all weekend long.
Joey Dee and the Starliters (who released Peppermint Twist in 1961) take the stage Saturday at 6:45 p.m. On Sunday, enjoy doo-wop with Kenny Galliano and the Saints at 5:45 p.m.