NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) – It’s a tradition like no other in the whaling city.
Preparations are underway for the 103rd annual Feast of the Blessed Sacrament in New Bedford, and organizers are getting ready for the expected crowds.
The Feast is still the largest Portuguese festival in the country to date, with over 200,000 people expected to join in the festivities this weekend.
“It’s all about family and friends and having a good time,” said Feast organizer, Steve Duarte.
Security will be high, with 200 uniformed police officers on site, but Feast goers are being asked to do their part as well.
“You can’t bring coolers, you can’t bring backpacks, you’re subject to search,” said Duarte.
Eyewitness News met Gabe Coutinho, the grandson of the Feast’s founder, Wednesday night.
“We’re just trying to carry the torch as my dad has taught me and everyone else’s dad has taught them too,” said Coutinho.
He says his grandfather, and three other men, held the first Feast after immigrating to the United States, making New Bedford their new home.
“I think they were very humble,” added Coutinho. “I think they were very fortunate to start a new life in America and again it was about keeping the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament going.”
Feast organizers say they face different challenges than when the Feast first began, especially this year with the annual carnival.
“There’s multiple eyes checking the rides on a regular basis,” says Larry Cushing, owner of Cushing Amusements, which is one company which operates the carnival. “They’ll send anywhere from three to five inspectors to inspect us so there’s multiple eyes inspecting our equipment on a regular basis.”
Just last week, a ride at the Ohio State Fair broke apart mid-air, killing an 18-year-old male and several other riders. Cushing says the rides are taken apart and put together so frequently that this actually makes them safer.
“There’s different situations we’ll see because we do take them apart and it makes a big difference,” said Cushing.
Following the deadly Ohio State Fair incident, Eyewitness News took an in-depth look at local fairs in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and found there were some documented deficiencies, although they were not common.
WPRI-12 and Fox Providence are once again proud sponsors of the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament.