Working Waterfront Festival this Weekend!

A great catch — Working Waterfront Festival to Unfurl this Weekend
New Bedford Standard-Times

No need to tune into television for seafaring dramas like “Lobster Wars” and “Deadliest Catch” to get a peek inside life chasing catch on the water. This weekend, New Bedford’s fifth annual Working Waterfront Festival shows off the real stuff at home, with more salty contests, more maritime music, more fishing boats to tour and more ocean adventurers to meet firsthand than ever before.
Unlike some piers designed to draw tourists with bistros and boutiques, New Bedford’s waterfront is still dedicated to serving the fishing industry that has made it the No. 1 port in the United States for the value of its catch each year.
In fact, Festival Director Laura Orleans said ours is one of a disappearing breed of fishing ports that still has all the infrastructure a fleet needs to deliver its haul and stay afloat — fillet houses and ice houses, suppliers and fuel stations, auctioneers and shipyards.
“The authenticity of the festival is what I’m most proud of, what sets it apart,” she said. “It’s about fishermen and the fishing industry.”
This year’s theme, “Connecting Communities, Preserving Ports,” is both poignant and practical as fishing restrictions, fuel prices and competition for recreational waterfront development challenge the future of fishing ports like New Bedford’s. Panel discussions and original “Dock-U-Mentaries” will share stories of survival from port to port across the nation, and help build bonds between New Bedford’s average citizens and the industry that has shaped this community for hundreds of years.
“The Working Waterfront Festival gives people a chance to get to know fishing families. They are hardworking people who want to keep their livelihood going,” said Ms. Orleans.
The men and women of the world’s “oldest commercial industry” have come to love New Bedford’s festival as their chance to reach out and introduce people to their way of life. This year, participants are coming from as far away as Alaska and Norway. All have fishing in common, though some also sing or cook, take photographs or write poetry.
Their lives inextricably tied to the ocean, Ms. Orleans said of the fishermen, “They have a reverence for it — that’s something that’s easy to forget. They watch the sunrise on deck at 3 a.m. in the mornings the same way farmers are.”
Part of the reason people know so little about the daily lives of fishermen is that “it all happens very early in the morning and it is all over by noon,” said Paul Lane, marine operations manager for Fleet Fisheries, which operates nine scallop boats. Mr. Lane will be conducting tours on the scalloper Alaska that will feature home movies of actual scalloping trips shown in the boat’s galley, he said.
Also included this year are six other boats available for tours: a trawler, an off-shore lobster boat, a tug boat, a Coast Guard life boat, a Coast Guard buoy tender and a deep sea clammer. Visitors will be able to “talk to the crews, see where they sleep” and generally enjoy a very intimate view of the fishermen’s unique lifestyles, Ms. Orleans said.
In addition to the dockside attractions, Whaling City Expeditions will offer 50-minute tours of the harbor, tug boats will muster to show their skills on the water and whaleboat races will culminate in chances for anyone to have a try at pulling an oar. As in years past, fish filleting and scallop shucking contests will raise adrenaline levels. Net mending, splicing and link squeezing will show off some of the skills sailors need to keep things shipshape at sea. Survival suit races will challenge fishermen to complete a bulky head-to-boot process in under 60 seconds — the time they’d have to beat if a boat was going down in cold waters.
Master cooks will teach crowds to create seafood recipes that are popular in shipboard galleys as well as restaurants.
Demonstrations will range from basic to advanced, with ethnic and celebrity chefs sharing their secrets for uncommon meals. Smith Island native Janice Marshall will prepare what has become the official dessert of the state of Maryland — the 10-layer Smith Island Cake. Longtime New York Times food writer and cookbook author Molly O’Neill will be on hand.
For those who like to read more than get their hands dirty, the Working Waterfront Festival is welcoming four additional authors to the docks to share their works. From Somerville, Mass., Timothy Basil Ering will bring his most recent book for children about a brave little clam. It’s called “Neck’s Out for Adventure.” Mr. Ering may be best known as the illustrator of the children’s book “The Tale of Despereaux,” which won a Newbery Medal and has been made into a movie being released this fall.
Samuel S. Cottle, who grew up in Snug Harbor, R.I., will share his life’s story “Danger at Sea: Adventures of a New England Fishing Family” with firsthand accounts of a midnight sinking and nettings of unexploded depth charges and great white sharks. Nature writer Robert Finch’s collection of essays “The Iambics of Newfoundland: Notes from the Unknown” will prove why this Cape Codder is sought after for both his writing and his radio commentaries. Paul Molyneaux is currently researching his next book with funding from a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship. Hailing from Maine, he will share his view on fisheries problems and aquaculture in his book “Swimming in Circles: Aquaculture and the End of the Wild Oceans.”
Music and storytelling at the Working Waterfront Festival will represent the wide variety of ethnic heritages that underscore the fishing way of life.
Typically lively, sea chanteys span traditions from Cajun to folk to rock. Local favorites like the New Bedford Sea Chantey Chorus will be on hand, along with special guests such as the Northern Neck Chantey Singers who hail from Virginia and will share the African-American work songs they used to keep time hauling in nets in the menhaden fishery.
For the scientifically minded, a special 750-gallon glass flume tank from Newfoundland will be set up to simulate ocean currents and exhibit how nets and fishing gear operate underwater. Local net designer Tor Bendiksen of Reidars Manufacturing has created model nets for use in the tank.
Understanding modern net design is important today because, Ms. Orleans explained, “originally nets were designed for the most catch possible. Now nets are more selective” to better preserve threatened fish stocks.
The Working Waterfront Festival, which takes place at Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 3 and Steamship Pier, is a free, family-friendly event. Special children’s activities and storytelling are included.
The festival takes place 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The traditional Blessing of the Fleet will take place on State Pier beginning at 1 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, including show times and festival maps, visit
September 25, 2008
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Don’t let New Bedford waterfront fest get away
By Jody Feinberg, Associated Press, Posted on
NEW BEDFORD — Ever wonder what it’s like to pilot a fishing boat and haul in the catch? At the Working Waterfront Festival in New Bedford this weekend, you can hear tales from the fishermen and even walk aboard their boats. You can see how they mend nets, make traps and fillet fish.
“This is the real deal and nothing is staged,” said Laura Orleans, director of the five-year-old festival where admission and parking are free. “Other ports have a music festival or a blessing of the fleet, but what makes this unique is that it’s not just taking place at a port, it’s about a working waterfront. It celebrates the culture and educates people about it.”
And to make the celebration more fun, there’s two stages of music and dance, reflecting the Cajun, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese and African-American fishing communities. Plus, children’s performances, cooking and fishing skills demonstrations, author and poet readings, and panel discussions.
New Bedford is the country’s top port for the value of its catch, largely because scallops are relatively expensive, Orleans said. About 300 scallop and ground fishing boats go out of New Bedford, and you can board them and look at sleeping, eating and working areas.
Coast Guard and lobster boats also can be boarded, and you can ride on the harbor in a tour boat and a replica whaleboat, which harpooners used in their hunt for whales when New Bedford was a whaling capital.
And what’s a festival without food? There will be scallops, fish and chips, quahog chowder and other seafood selections. There also are food presentations, including one by Molly O’Neil, a food columnist and cookbook author who’s been nominated twice for a Pulitzer Prize. She   will discuss fish recipes.
Fishing of course is hard, messy work. But if you want to see the fishermen have fun, cheer on their contests of shucking, net mending, filleting and donning survival wet suits.
The Working Waterfront Festival is 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Fisherman’s Wharf, State Pier and Steamship Pier off MacArthur Drive in New Bedford. Free parking at Elm Street garage and free admission. For more information, call 508-993-8894 or go to
Posted Sep 25, 2008
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