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San Gennaro Feast under way at the Rio

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Leila Navidi

Accordian player Joe Vento entertains the crowds near the food booths during the San Gennaro Feast at the Rio on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011.

San Gennaro Feast at the Rio

Violin player Sandor Beke entertains the crowds near the food booths during the San Gennaro Feast at the Rio on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Map of The Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino

The Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino

3700 W. Flamingo Rd., Las Vegas

Beyond the Sun

JJ Guzman hunched over a red and white checked tablecloth gobbling up Italian sausage and peppers as he chatted with friends at the 32nd semi-annual San Gennaro Feast.

“I love food,” Guzman said. “We pay cover to get in so we can eat. Seriously, it’s the food.”

Wednesday marked the fourth time the 41-year-old has attended the Italian food festival, which is celebrated each May and September. The feast started Tuesday and runs through Sept. 18.

This fall, the San Gennaro Feast is being held outside the Rio.

After paying the $8 admission fee, Guzman and his friends lined up to buy their first round of roasted peppers, sweet Italian sausages and Philly cheesesteaks.

Cooks at Anthony’s World Famous Italian Sausages said they sell more than 200 pounds of sausage a day during the event.

Along with trays of pasta, rows of piping hot sausages and tubs of glistening gelato, the San Gennaro Feast offers carnival rides, arts and crafts booths, and entertainment.

“They get a taste of the food, and they get a taste of the entertainment,” said Tony Sacco, entertainment director for the event.

Jeff Solomon, assistant general manger of the Rio, said he expects 80,000 to 100,000 people to attend the festival.

He said he hopes the event finds a permanent home at the Rio, which offers the Strip as a backdrop, wide walkways and plenty of parking. In the past, it has been held at the Silverton, in parks and in empty lots.

The Feast is scheduled to be back at the Rio in the spring, but locations haven’t been decided beyond that, Solomon said.

Las Vegas native Amber Valenzuela, who attended with her family, didn’t care for the Rio location. “I would rather it be closer to suburbia,” she said.

But Guzman said he prefers the festival at the Rio.

“It’s a nice festival to hang out with your friends,” Guzman said as he finished off his Italian sausage and eyed a booth selling fried Oreos. “Everybody should come over.”

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