United States of Strange. Part 3: A Trip to the Feast

6 08 2009

‘Are you gonna be here for the Feast?’

‘Have you heard about the Feast?’

‘Only one week til the Feast…’

This is all I have heard from the New Bedfordites since arriving at the start of June.

The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament has been running 95 years and purports to be — among other things — the largest Portuguese feast in the world, and to hold a record for the most wine consumed per square foot, anywhere in the world.

No one seems to know exactly what it celebrates; a festival of Madeiran culture seems to be the popular answer.

But if this is Madeiran culture, I can only advise you stay the hell away from that particular island.

Cardoza looks for a fire pit to sear his meat

Cardoza looks for a fire pit to sear his meat

Despite the vaguely religious title, the Feast involves thousands of people crowding into the Feast Grounds (a park which remains empty 361 days a year), and getting absolutely hammered on cheap wine and beef.

But that sounds right up Ben’s alley, I hear you say.

Yeh, kind of, but this one was a bit of a letdown after hearing the hype for the past three months.

and you wonder why kids are scared of clowns?

and you wonder why kids are scared of clowns?

I guess it’s fun for locals to catch up with their mates if they can push through the crowd, but one night of having my feet stepped on and overproof Madeiran wine sloshed all over me was enough. It goes on for four days…

There are also fights all weekend, grabbing girls’ asses is considered fair game by the throngs of teenagers and they don’t serve wine in bottles anymore after someone was killed a few years back.

Classy, right? I call: Hoax.

Advertisements




New Bedford Field Trip: a journey to the untamed north (end).

22 06 2009
portugal day on the ave

portugal day on the ave

Now, I haven’t spoken about my new home yet.

I’m still getting to that. But what you do need to know is that New Bedford is home to an astounding number of  folk who identify themselves as Portuguese, Azorean and Cape Verdean –  chiefly  as a result of the region’s past as a major whaling port.

What this means for me, is indecipherable accents, amazing restaurants, a welcome sense of multiculturalism and a bunch of extra holidays.

Enter, Portugal Day.

droppin' it like it's hot

droppin' it like it's hot

June 10 marks the date of Luis De Camoes’ death – the man who penned Portugal’s national poem, then lost an eye, was shipwrecked and went on to save said poem by swimming with one arm while keeping the other (poem-holding) arm above water.

Kind of beats Australia Day, right?

What Portugal Day in New Bedford means is a big ol’ street party. Acushnet Ave at the north end of town is blocked off, streetside stalls hawk Madeiran wine and plastic cups of beer.

The smoky tang of barbecued sardines hangs thick in the air. Portuguese is spoken everywhere. And everyone has a good time.

We checked it out first on Saturday night where the streets were thronged with middle-class teenage gangsters, their hair in cornrows, looking mean and telling each other that, ‘Yo dawg, this is, in fact, whack’.

Unfortunately for them, these spotty Tupac-wannabes weren’t old enough to drink, but we were, so we enjoyed the Massachusetts rarity of a few streetside beers before calling it a night.

Caitlin and Mitch munching churros

Caitlin and Mitch munching churros

getting up to get down

getting up to get down

Now street festivals are really designed to be enjoyed in the sun. So after our traditional Sunday breakfast of cucumber bloody marys, we hit The Ave again.

Grilled sardines hot off the bbq, cold cups of summer ale, fresh rolls filled with charred chorizo, hot sugary churros. That’s what I call a lunch.

guy was AMAZING

guy was AMAZING

There was all manner of entertainment too.

Some bloke was going nuts bashing out tribal beats on an assortment of upturned tubs. Kids in traditional costumes showed their dance moves.

We even found an amazing cathedral with a church-run ‘roulette’ table out front. God smiled on me and I won.

A good day.

one man who looks like he has just been born and another who was at the wrong national day??

one man who looks like he has just been born and another who was at the wrong national day??

church window detail

church window detail