World's Largest Portuguese Feast - New Bedford Ma
ON THE COVER
Traditions of the Portuguese Feast Run Deep
Four-Day New Bedford Event Presents A Celebration For All
NEW BEDFORD – Come August, it doesn’t take long to figure out that there’s something special going on in the streets of New Bedford’s north end. Just the sight of scores of brightly colored cedar poles and bayberry laced arches, linked by long chains of flowers and lights to create a canopy of wonder down Earle Street from Acushnet Avenue to Madeira Avenue offers a sure sign that time for the magnificent Feast of the Blessed Sacrament has arrived once again.
There are 102 years of tradition packed into this year’s celebration, and it will all be on display from August 4 through 7 at Madeira Field, a unique property owned and operated by the Club Madeirense S. S. Sacramento, Inc. for the distinct purpose of annually presenting the Feast, or Fesh-ta as it is pronounced in Portuguese. From its origins in 1915 as a religious event organized by four immigrant men from Madeira, the main island in a small archipelago 500 miles off the coast of Morocco that was uninhabited until the Portuguese discovered it in the 15th century, the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament has grown to become New England’s largest ethnic celebration and a true community event that brings four days of fun, entertainment and the pride of one’s heritage to families throughout the region.
The Portuguese Feast, as it is commonly known, is a celebration on a grand scale in every way. Where else can you find five performance stages running continually over four days with entertainment that is contemporary, cultural, hip, traditional, ethnic, country, rock, folkloric and a whole lot more while some of the best tasting Portuguese food you’re going to find is being served up everywhere you turn? Where else are you going to find yourself on a hot summer night enjoying a great tasting linguiça sandwich and a cold beer under a canopy of 10,000 lights while a world renowned musical artist serenades you and your friends for free? Where else are you able to purchase a couple of pounds of sirloin beef tips, skewer it yourself and cook it over a forty foot long barbecue pit alongside throngs of other revelers while the rest of your family picks out some of their favorite souvenirs? Where else can you sit down in a quiet café enjoying fado, the traditional “blues” music of Portugal, with an espresso and a lemony custard tart called a pastel de nata, and a half-hour later on the other end of the same city block you’ve got a cup of Madeira wine in hand while the Grammy-nominated band Tonic plays cuts from their platinum selling album Lemon Parade?
Sound like the place to be? It sure does.
It has taken the good part of a year to prepare for this spectacular event. No one knows this better than 2016 Feast president Paul Leconte. Together with his committee of 33 festeiros (feast committee men) and the support of Club Madeirense members, Mr. Leconte has set the stage for another exciting time.
“We began on the Sunday night of last year’s feast,” said Mr. LeConte. “We’ve prepared a Feast like no other and look forward to providing the community an enjoyable, safe and family-friendly place to be where they can have fun, eat and listen to great entertainment.”
Improvements to the Feast Grounds this year see an expanded main stage to better accommodate large groups such as the musicians and dancers of the Grupo Folclorico Madeirense. There are more ticket machines and upgraded wristband ID equipment, too, speeding up the lines to allow patrons more time to enjoy the abundance of Portuguese foods and refreshing beverages with their family and friends.
An expanded entertainment schedule has something for everyone including the world-renowned Portuguese performer “Nelia Moreira”, the much-celebrated Bon Jovi tribute band “Living On A Bad Name” and a Country & Western night with “Kristen Merlin” from the popular TV Show ‘The Voice’. There are performances at the Museum of Madeiran Heritage Café every day, too.
On Saturday afternoon, Walgreens pharmacy presents a Family Fun Day with children’s performers roaming throughout the grounds and special entertainment on stage, plus, children enjoy free food and beverages, and Seniors take 50 percent off meals.
Free entertainment and the great assortment of Portuguese foods is not all. The Feast also features an annual 5K Road Race on Saturday and a spectacular parade on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Mark August 4, 5, 6 and 7 on your calendar and get ready for the 102nd Feast of the Blessed Sacrament. Check out the website at www.portuguesefeast.com for more information.
Read this great article in SouthCoast Insider-JULY-16 Edition page 28.
Article written by:Rich Tabor