An Astronaut Lands in Little Italy This Weekend

Columbia Engineering professor and former NASA astronaut, Mike Massimino, will celebrate Italian immigrant heritage at an iconic New York City street festival.

By
Caroline Harting
September 16, 2022

What do meatballs, cannoli-eating contestants, and opera singers have in common with Columbia Engineering’s Mike Massimino (ENG’84)? You can find all of them at the 96th annual Feast of San Gennaro in New York City’s Little Italy this week. Massimino will be this year’s Grand Marshal for the festival and will take part in the parade on Saturday, September 17.

“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Italian immigrants and the vibrant community they created in downtown Manhattan than to be a part of the Feast of San Gennaro,” said Massimo. “All four of my grandparents emigrated from Sicily, and I know they would be very proud that I’m Grand Marshal of the parade.”

Back in 1926, recent immigrants from Naples, started to hold annual celebrations in Lower Manhattan in honor of the Naples’ patron saint. The Feast of San Gennaro began as a neighborhood block party on Mulberry Street with prizes for “best decorated fire escape,” but has grown to a 10-day celebration visited by thousands and that covers 11 blocks in Little Italy.

Many of the old Little Italy residents have moved away, but they frequently come back to Mulberry Street to reconnect with old friends for the fest. The Feast of San Gennaro runs until September 25.

Head downtown for the fun, and don’t forget to grab a cannoli with your Italian sausage hero!