New Bedford Working Waterfront Festival to explore region’s cultural mosaic September 24-25

By Don Cuddy

NEW BEDFORD — The weekend of Sept. 25-26 may still be a long way off, but organizers of the Working Waterfront Festival already have spent months gearing up for the seventh edition of an annual event that has grown exponentially since its debut in 2004.

“Because of the grant cycle, we actually start planning about a year and a half in advance,” said festival director Laura Orleans.

“Every year, my production people tell me it can’t grow anymore but somehow it just grows anyway.”

The festival has become a signature event on the city’s calendar. The gathering on the wharves permits a close look at the people, the businesses and the boats that have kept New Bedford the top-grossing fishing port in the United States for years in terms of the value of its landings.

The theme for this year’s festival is All in One Boat: the Cultural Mosaic of New England’s Working Ports, and the focus will be squarely on ethnic diversity, Orleans said.

Immigrants from many different countries have left their mark upon New England’s waterfront communities, and the 2010 festival will include music, dance and traditional crafts reflecting a wide variety of cultures.

“We’ve always focused on diversity with our music programming, and the ethnic arts piece this year adds a whole new component,” Orleans said. Among the artisans will be Eldrid Arntzen, demonstrating the Norwegian art of rosemaling, a form of decorative flower painting.

Performers on three stages will showcase the music of Portugal and the Azores, Sicily, Norway and Cape Verde. Folk music and sea chanteys from New England, Newfoundland and the British Isles will also be presented. Native American performers, the Black Brook Singers, will open the festival with a drum circle.

Last year’s gathering saw the introduction of a popular farmer’s market, allowing festival-goers to buy fresh produce, cheeses and seafood right on the docks. The market will return, along with the many established festival activities such as author appearances, films, panel discussions, boat tours, whale boat races and cooking demonstrations.

New this year is a “Seafood Throwdown” featuring two chefs competing to create a seafood dish using fresh local seafood. Two identical kitchens will be provided, and each chef will receive $25 and be allowed 15 minutes to shop at the festival market for ingredients.

There will also be a more serious side to the festival this time around. Because of the new government regulations and the challenge they pose to fishermen, the theme of “All in One Boat” has suddenly attained added significance, Orleans said.

“People are really coming together about their concerns over the new regulations and every day there will be panel discussions exploring what the industry can do.”

For more information on the festival and its programming, go to
August 11, 2010 12:00 AM

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