Working Waterfront Festival Fares Foul Weather Well

Skies Clear and Crowds Return to Waterfront Festival

Randy Moniz, Steve Wright, Marie Gomes and John Reardon compete in the net mending contest during the New Bedford Water Front Festival. photo by David W. Oliveira/Standard-Times special

NEW BEDFORD — When the Northern Neck Sea Chantey Singers from Northumberland County, Va., closed the city’s Working Waterfront Festival on Sunday with a fervent rendition of the old spiritual “Heaven Look Down on Me,” it echoed the sentiments of festival organizers who had seen Saturday’s storm discourage many people from attending Day 1 of the annual celebration.
“We enjoyed all that liquid sunshine you laid on for us yesterday,” group member Ed Taylor quipped when asked how he was enjoying his first visit to New Bedford.
Thankfully, the heavens stayed closed Sunday and the crowds returned to the city waterfront to enjoy a close-up look at the world of the commercial fisherman.
“Having people from all the different ports has been really instructive for the public and also for the fishermen,” festival director Laura Orleans said.
There was plenty to see on the festival grounds, which offered boat tours, gear exhibits, music on two stages, cooking demonstrations and author appearances.
Encompassing the whole were the boats themselves, tied up in all their variety around the downtown wharves where the traditional Blessing of the Fleet ceremony took place at 1 p.m.
“The festival gives us a chance to put a face on the industry,” said Paul Lane, operations manager of Fleet Fisheries as he showed visitors around the brand new 102-foot scalloper Alaska on Fisherman’s Wharf.
The ocean’s bounty awaited visitors in the nearby food tent, where Ken and Liz Ackerman of the Oxford Creamery were frying batches of fresh haddock and scallops as fast as they could.
Researchers and scientists were also well-represented at the festival with educational booths, many focusing on conservation.
The flume tank from Newfoundland’s Memorial University demonstrated a new trawl intended to catch more abundant haddock while allowing endangered cod to escape.
The collapse of the cod fishery in Canada has benefited some fishermen, according to Dr. Paul Winger of the university’s Marine Institute, since a corresponding increase in catches of snow crab and shrimp have proven more lucrative.
Another popular display featured pictures of the designs submitted for the proposed fishermen’s memorial at Fort Taber.
Models of each design will be on display at the New Bedford Explorium on Tuesday at 6:30 to 9 p.m.
September 29, 2008
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