World's Largest Portuguese Feast - New Bedford Ma
What Makes the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament Special?
By Ed Camara
In the months and weeks leading up to the annual Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, the question if often asked “What makes the Feast so special?” The truth is that every volunteer has a different story.
Today, a half dozen men, all in their 60s and 70s worked on constructing a bigger and better main stage in the middle of the feast grounds. They poured cement, constructed giant wood frames, and helped with painting and touch ups. Their reward was a glass or two of regular red wine and a small lunch.
They show up every morning, sometimes as early as 7:30 to start sweating and building things that the average feast-goer will probably never notice. The Feast is an enigma . . . a mystery that almost defies description. Let’s not forget that a number of other New Bedford festivals have dwindled and some have died over the past few years and the Feast continues on solid ground, growing larger every year.
The members of the Club Madeirense S.S. Sacramento take no joy in saying good bye to other fairs and festivals because, in the end, we are all trying to showcase the best that New Bedford has to offer. People come to the Feast for the entertainment, the food, the Madeira wine . . . but most importantly to see each other. Perhaps like no other event, the Feast is a place to meet old and new friends within the confines of a half city block.
The committees that change yearly are made up of club members and possible new members called ‘Feisteros’. To insure fresh thoughts and new energy, these members may only serve once every 5 years. In truth, while the yearly committee of ‘fesiteros’ change, they are helped by a core of volunteer club members who come from across the U.S. and a half dozen foreign counties who work for the four days of the Feast with smiles and chalk up another year of being a volunteer.
The people who cook and serve food, hand out wristbands and pour beer and wine work for free. Please read that sentence again and you will understand ‘what makes the Feast special’. The Club and the Feast Committees meet once a month and that doesn’t include the meetings of the Museum, Scholarship, Folkloric Dancers (including practices), Presenters, IT, and a number of other unofficial sub committees.
The Building Committee rarely has sit-down meetings- they are too busy outdoors doing what they do best. There are names attached to all of these committees, but they don’t work for the recognition. On August 7th, when the 102nd Feast closes, President Paul Leconte will say something like, “Thank you all- it wasn’t easy, but we got it done.” Any volunteers left to hear him will have tired feet, sore legs and a linguica overdose . . . then they will start talking about 2017 . . . and that’s what makes the Feast special again!
Families who emigrated from mainland Portugal, the Azores or any other part of the Portuguese world are often lumped together. While they share a common language and many traditions, those from Madeira share a special and tighter bond . . . especially those who may have been born there. They talk about walking along the levadas (small canals that transport fresh mountain water to the crops), how to cook a Madeiran delicacy- scabbard fish, a long black espada (from the depths of the ocean around the island). They talk about family. It seems as if all Madeirans have extended families of aunts, uncles, cousins- and many of them come to the Feast, and that’s one more thing that makes it special.
Madeirans love company. You are all invited to see what makes it ‘special’.