August 03, 2014 12:00 AM
By Standard Times Editorial Board
A hundred years. The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, a piece of living history, has grown into the largest Portuguese feast in the world.
New Bedford’s population doubled, maybe even tripled, to accommodate guests for the 100th feast, a religious celebration patterned after a traditional Roman Catholic celebration, specifically a feast on the Portuguese island of Madeira.
Its four founders came from Madeira, and promised God an American version of the feast in thanksgiving for their safe passage over stormy seas.
Four days of Portuguese food, music and dance is the heart of the feast, and the religious roots — the Sunday feast Mass — are its soul.
The scope of the feast is what astounds. New Bedford’s Portuguese population is significant, but this one relies on the descendants of those four Madeirans. It is a tribute to community service and values that it has grown to such stature, and it stands as a beacon to show other ethnic groups — especially the newer, growing groups — what their influence can become.
The leadership team was greatly expanded this year to ensure the 100th edition’s success. A year’s worth of planning and community participation created an event that could appeal to anyone, and teach these valuable lessons about strengthening the community and reinforcing ethnic identity, all to the benefit of the region.
The feast ends tonight, and when the paper was delivered this morning, there still remained New Bedford’s longest parade of the year, full of folcloric dancers, traditional musicians, school bands, veterans, politicians and more, marching, dancing and shaking hands to the grounds at Madeira Field.
If you’ve missed the feast so far, take the opportunity to be part of this landmark 100th. And bring your appetite.