NEW BEDFORD — The lines were already well-established as hundreds of merrymakers arrived at the Madeira Field Feast Grounds around lunchtime on Friday.
It was the first time in two years that people had the opportunity to do it.
“It feels like two years didn’t happen,” Marcie Raposa, a New Bedford resident waiting in line for a caçoila sandwich, said.
On its second day, the 106th Festa do Santissimo Sacramento (Feast of the Blessed Sacrament) was already drawing in crowds.
The first after COVID restrictions canceled the feast in 2020 and 2021, for Edna Soares, her stay away had been quite a bit longer.
“This is my first time coming back here in 10 years,” she said. “I just haven’t been into it.”
Luckily for Soares — and hundreds of others — the festa’s famous malasadas were being baked and the line was still non-existent.
“It’s basically fried dough,” said John Quintal, for whom this was his ninth year at the malasada stand. “Basically put the sugar on it … If it’s stretched out right, it’s really good.”
For him, the return to the festival is a return to normal.
“It’s like you haven’t lost any steps,” he said.
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‘It’s great to revive a tradition’
The festa, the largest Portuguese feast in the diaspora, is known for its celebrations of Lusitanian culture, foods, and music. Something that New Bedford rookie ToniAnne Wong was learning first hand.
“I’ve literally been here a week,” Wong, who moved from Boston to teach at Alma Del Mar Charter School, said.
Wong said their first impressions of the city had been positive, and the feast was only reinforcing that.
“I really appreciate the tight community,” they said. “Everyone wants to help each other out.”
Yet even on a Madeira newcomer, the significance of the feast’s return was not lost on them.
“It’s great to revive a tradition after a really long hiatus,” Wong said. “I feel like people are just here to have a lot of good food and good times.”
How to enjoy the feast
The feast continues Saturday, Aug. 6, and Sunday, Aug. 7, from noon to 11:45 p.m
Kids day and half-price senior specials will be offered on Saturday afternoon.
The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament will host its annual parade on Sunday, starting at 2 pm Over 40 different organizations will march the one-mile route from Brooklawn Park to the Feast grounds at Madeira Field.
Headlining Saturday night will be Band Faith! from 10 to 11:30 pm on Stage 1.
Headlining Sunday night will be Danny Klein’s Full House! from 10 to 11:30 pm on Stage 1.
Cushing Amusements will operate the carnival all four days of the feast.
The food will include cook-your-own barbecue beef (carne d’espeto), sweet malassadas (fried dough), and linguica (sausage) and baccalau (codfish) sandwiches. Hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries will also be available. Madeira wine has been imported in giant casks by special agreement with the Madeiran Government.