The New Bedford Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, a.k.a. the Portuguese Feast, a.k.a. Madeira Feast is the largest event New Bedford has every year. More than that, it is the largest Portuguese feast in the world and the largest ethnic festival in New England. The feast was founded in 1915 by four Madeiran immigrants who wanted to recreate the festivities of their home island.
Here is an overview of the 105th Feast of the Blessed Sacrament which has become a major attraction for visitors from all over who come to celebrate the Portuguese culture through food, drink, and entertainment.
1. Location & Schedule of Events
The “feast” is a four-day event, officially kicking off at 6:00 PM on Thursday, August 1st with the assembly of the Festeiros (Feast Committee Members) at the intersection of Earle Street and Acushnet Avenue.
Led by the Feast President, the Festeiros march in a special procession down Earle Street to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church which is located at the corner of Earle Street and Madeira Avenue. At the church, Father Daniel O. Reis celebrates a special Benediction to the Blessed Sacrament.
Photo by Josh Souza.
Each evening the feast grounds will close at 11:45pm and open the next day at noon.
On Saturday, however the 5K road race in memory of Anibal Moniz will begin at 10:00am with a check-in time of 8:30am. The course goes through the historic north end and finishes through the famous arches at Madeira Field. The first 250 entrants get a free t-shirt, but all participants are treated to food and drink. The top three male and female winners will receive medals and cash prizes of $250.00 for 1st place, $150.00 for 2nd place and $75.00 for 3rd place. The age categories are 14 and under, 15-18, 19-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70 and over.
The road race is followed by Fun & Family Day from NOON-4:00pm. A ton of fun events and activities are planned including face painting, a traveling science museum, music by the Toe Jam Puppet Band, carnival rides, a free book, flash mob and routine by Dance Xtreme, and more. This year there are some new rides!
The last day of the feast is Sunday and will feature a parade at 2:00pm.
Want to win some prizes? Raffled off this year will be a trip to Madeira Island with hotel and airfare, tickets to a Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics or Revolution game, His and Hers Deluxe Bicycles, Lottery Ticket Books, a Peace Sport 49CC Scooter, and a $1,000 in gift certificates to your favorite local restaurants! Simply buy some raffle tickets for a donation of $2 or $5 will get you a book of 5.
There is no charge for admission and the entertainment is free thanks to the hard work of the committee members who comprise the 2019 Feast of the Blessed Sacrament Committee. Feast members come from all over the country to plan the feast each year, some as far away as California and Florida. Some of the members will be traveling from across the U.S., Canada, Europe, and South Africa to attend the feast, but in the meantime, they have had family members representing them at the committee meetings.
While admission is free to walk around and watch the entertainment or visit the Museum of Madeiran Heritage there are also many vendors on the grounds selling everything from handmade Madeiran souvenirs to cigars. Of course, food, carnival rides, and beverages are also an additional cost.
Prices of food are kept reasonable, and there is a great deal of variety to choose from. Tickets cost a dollar each and can be purchased at many machines located throughout the grounds by placing a five, ten or twenty dollar bill inside. Tickets are non-refundable. There are also stands with employees who sell the tickets.
Photo by Miss Z Photography.
To give you a general idea of the prices of items at the feast, a full meal is 12 tickets, most sandwiches are around four tickets, and a soda or water goes for one ticket. If you’re over 21, an impressive selection of alcoholic beverages is available to choose from.
On Family Fun Day – which is Saturday – food is FREE food for kids under 12: burgers, hot dogs, French fries and a soda from noon-4:00 pm. Also on Saturday in the same time frame, seniors get a choice-of-menu dinner at a 50% discount and special for them will be music acts of The Essex County 4 and Taylor Cormier. Choices include roast beef, chicken, fish, cacoila, and the somewhat more exotic roast goat or rabbit, traditional Portuguese favorites.