Italian Market Festival celebrates heart and soul of South Philly

Italian Market
DiBruno Bros

The South Ninth Street Italian Market Festival will continue its beloved tradition later this month, bringing food, fun, vendors and more to South Philadelphia.

On May 20-21, the festival will wind its way through the entirety of the South Philadelphia shopping, dining and lifestyle district, including a holy procession of the Saints celebrating Saint Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi Church (the first Catholic Italian parish in the US, established in 1852 by Bishop John Neumann). There will also be a greased pole competition, Albero Della Cuccagna in Italian, at 9th and Montrose Piazza, the John Marzano Half Ball Tournament in the schoolyard of Christopher Columbus Charter School at Christian Street, as well as a cornhole tournament and the Philly Cheesesteak of the Year epic showdown.

Of course, new school artisan vendors will mix and mingle with the block’s up-and-comers of local, diverse cuisine as well as those ages-old foodie veterans on Ninth Street.

The festival is also upping the ante on its live entertainment stakes. For along with its new wealth of DJs (Tim DeSimone, Eric Bartello) and large-scale bands (The Company, the Juliano Brothers, Jukebox Days, etc.), this year’s festival is in dedication to one of its longtime local born-and-bred hosts, and an internationally renowned treasure — the iconic Jerry Blavat.


“The Geator with the Heater” and “The Boss with the Hot Sauce” – who passed away on Jan. 20, 2023 – was a mainstay of all things South Philadelphia and a favorite of his hometown neighborhood. Though he created television programs and radio shows syndicated across the United States, and was included in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as part of a permanent exhibit in its Museum of Radio and Records, Blavat never forgot his roots, and never moved out of Philadelphia.

The Italian Market’s festival producer Michele Gambino told Metro that, “Jerry Blavat was part of our Ninth Street Festival for 20 years, and it is our honor to be able to have this tribute to him.  He was a great and much-loved Philadelphian.”

On Saturday, May 20, at noon, there will be a live celebration to The Geator (“A Special Tribute to South Philly’s Own”), hosted by Marc Costastano, and featuring several of Blavat’s local favorite singers as bands such as Billy Carlucci from Billy & the Essentials, ChiChi from Memory Lane, the doo wop and R&B cover ensemble, Remember Then, and a special “Geator Gold” dance party spun by DJ Eric Bartello with all of the event’s proceeds going to the Jerry Blavat Endowment Fund sponsored by the Kimmel Center.

“To be but one of the DJs that carries the legacy for the biggest name of them all is definitely one of the highest honors,” said Bartello. “The Geator will always have my eternal gratitude. It is a pleasure to be giving this tribute to his loyal fans.”

For more information on the South Ninth Street Italian Market Festival, visit