The ‘Madeira Festival’ is back

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NEW BEDFORD — Richard Fernandes, the longest-serving president of the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Not only did the party return Thursday night after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic, but so did the large crowds at Madeira Field.

“We have been together for three long years… through many Zoom meetings, and a lot of meetings and work this year. But we made it,” Fernandes said of his committee at the party’s opening ceremony. “We have all worked hard to maintain the traditions. We have four days to make this the best party ever.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, who was a regular attendee on the opening day of the party, said he looked forward to this year’s event.

“I really missed you guys,” he said. “This is truly one of the greatest historic and traditional celebrations of family, faith, and food anywhere in America. I want to thank you for passing on this beautiful gift from one generation to the next. for so many years. I really hope this is always and forever a big part of what it means to be summer in this part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, because it really is a beautiful space and it restores, refreshes and nourishes not only the body but the heart and soul. I love this place.”

Mayor Jon Mitchell said the 106th Feast of the Blessed Sacrament had been extensively planned to keep everyone safe.

“Even though we look forward to the party every year, I think the anticipation was just a little more intense this year,” the mayor said. “People are itching to really get back to the rhythm of things and so I know we’re going to have a fabulous crowd.”

Due to larger than usual crowds after the two-year break, visitors should expect more security, and no oversized backpacks or handbags will be allowed.

The mayor said many cities and places across the country have tried to replicate and create authentic events like this holiday.

“Here in New Bedford, it’s organic; it comes from the grassroots,” he said. “It comes from family, faith and a commitment to culture and true love…that’s what it’s all about.”

Basically, it’s really a family event, he says.

“People are coming together. They reconnect relationships and people feel good to be in this place,” he added.

Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito said the holiday not only celebrated the best of where Madeirans came from, but also the best of this community in this country.

“I come here with this incredible sense of pride in the immigrants who came here, who left during these difficult times and struggles. But they came here knowing they could count on each other. They could rely on their faith. And you still celebrate those values ​​today,” she said, recalling the struggles her own great-grandfather Francesco Polito faced when he immigrated here from Sicily, Italy, in 1909.

The Lieutenant Governor commended the feast committee for involving younger generations in the planning of the event.

“You have young people always involved, making sure this party happens,” she said. “It is a very high value that you hold, and never forget the importance of doing so…that the next generation tell the stories, embrace your traditions and make sure that not only people in this community enjoy it , but people all over the country and the world who come here, I know it’s the biggest Portuguese party in the world, and we’re very happy to see it in the Commonwealth.

Representing the Regional Government of Madeira, guest of honor João Pedro Castro Fino, Regional Secretary of Equipment and Infrastructure of Madeira, thanked the committee for organizing such a remarkable event honoring the culture and traditions of Madeira. Portuguese Archipelago.

“Today is one of the largest ethnic festivals to be held on American soil,” he said proudly. “For this reason, and please do not misunderstand me, I express my pride in our island and in our people, for their entrepreneurial spirit and the way they have raised awareness in the United States in Madeira and the Portugal.”

He noted that there are currently 250,000 people living in Madeira but there are approximately one million Madeirans living abroad.

“Madeira, in Portugal, is present in each of these peoples,” he said. “Therefore, I salute my compatriots here present. This celebration and togetherness between the community of Madeira and all the people who live here also shows what a great nation the United States of America really is.

In closing his speech, he left a note of deep gratitude from the Madeira Regional Government for the work developed over the years by the Clube Madeirense SS Sacrament (the patron of the party) and its associates.

“It is thanks to your commitment that this tradition continues,” he said. “It is now a landmark for New Bedford, a land that welcomed you but also a moment of affirmation of our Madeiran Portuguese community across different borders. We are all extremely grateful for that.”

New Bedford City Council Speaker Ian Abreu, himself a descendant of Madeiran immigrants, said he had the pleasure of serving on three different party committees.

“Are you ready for the party?” he asked the crowd, and was greeted with cheers and applause.

“I know firsthand the kind of work that this group of festeiro, under the management of Rick and the club under Larry Jacques, my cousin, puts into the party,” he added. “Make no mistake, this is not a backyard barbecue. This is a second and sometimes a third full-time job.

Accompanied by Ward 2 Councilwoman Maria Giesta, the two presented a city council resolution to the chairman of the festival committee to publicly acknowledge the relevance of the event to the city and the hard work of its organizers.

“We are a diverse community,” Giesta said. “As someone from the other islands, the Azores, today we are all Madeirans, and it is truly an honor for me to be here. We have lost a lot in recent years – family, neighbor friends – and today is a time for us to celebrate what our community is all about.

The party was created in 1915 by four Madeiran immigrants: Manuel Coutinho, Manuel Agrella, Manuel Santana Duarte and Manuel Gomes Sebastião (alias Santinho). They observed a religious holiday to commemorate their safe passage to American shores.

The party offers non-stop Portuguese and American entertainment at five performance venues, including the Madeira Heritage Museum, where you can listen to traditional fado music. It also offers many traditional dishes and Madeira wine.

“We are all delighted to finally be able to carry on our tradition,” said Fernandes, whose first participation in the party dates back more than 45 years, after his father Charles Fernandes, who was always so proud of his Madeiran heritage, the encouraged to get involved and volunteer.

“It’s time for everyone to enjoy Portuguese cuisine, Madeira wine, meet family and friends, cook carne de espeto over the pit and enjoy the entertainment,” Fernandes added. , who first served as a festeiro, or party committee member, in 1991, and continued to serve every five years thereafter. He was also a board member for a quarter of a century.

“Partying has always been a part of me and my family’s life,” Fernandes said. “My family and friends volunteered every year at Booth 6. This is where my dad would hang out every year and we followed in his footsteps.”

This year, he is proud to serve alongside his grandson Logan Berube, his brother Carl, as Vice President, and two nephews.

“My dad would be so proud,” he said.

The party’s opening night drew a large crowd and the event is expected to attract over 100,000 people over the four days.

In preparation, the committee ordered huge quantities of food, including 15,000 pounds of sirloin, 4,000 pounds of pork, 400 pounds of chicken, 3,500 pounds of linguiça, and 700 pounds of bacalhau (salted cod). In addition, there will be sale of goats and rabbits as well as hamburgers, hot dogs, bifana, caçoila and other sandwiches. Over 30,000 malassadas are expected to be served.

“It’s great to be back and to be able to celebrate our traditions and our culture,” said Maria Silva, from New Bedford, while enjoying a glass of Madeira wine on Thursday evening. “I’m really going to enjoy it.”

Friday’s headliner will be The Great Escape, a Journey Tribute Band, which will take the main stage at Madeira Field from 10:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Portuguese rock will be in the spotlight on Saturday night as local band Band Faith will take the stage from 10 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

J. Geils Band tribute band Danny Klein’s Full House will be the final headliner Sunday night from 10-11:30 p.m.

Other artists will include Nadia and Karma, Maurício Morais, the Tim Brown Band, Rancho Folclórico de Nossa Senhora de Fátima, and more.

New Bedford’s biggest parade will be Sunday at 2 p.m. More than 40 different organizations will parade the one-mile course between Brooklawn Park and the party grounds at Madeira Field.

For more information on the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, visit http://feastoftheblessedsacramentcom.ning.com/

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