NEW BEDFORD —As thousands wait to gather in the north end of New Bedford this weekend at the 105th Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, City officials have decided to step up safety precautions for the popular annual event.

Citing security reasons, the City of New Bedford has enacted a parking and travel ban on all motor vehicles on Madeira Avenue from Earl Street to Tinkham Street during the Feast, including a ban to all motorcycle parking in front of Panthers Athletic & Social Club, located at 43 Madeira Avenue, a luxury allowed in years past.

The City's Licensing Board voted unanimously to enact the ban.

Ward Two City Councilor Maria Giesta called the Chris McCarthy Show on Tuesday to explain that while the City is prohibiting all motor vehicles from parking on Madeira Avenue. The Club will be allowing parking for a predetermined handful of motorcycles on their property.

“I called the Panthers Club and they’re allowing up to 10 motorcycles to park in their lot off of Hathaway Street, and no parking in the front,” Giesta said.

Mayor Jon Mitchell further explained the decision during his weekly appearance on the Barry Richard Show Wednesday, saying that security “is and has to be a big concern to our City government.”

“The police department, with the Feast Committee, takes great pains to set up in a way to not only minimize any threats to public safety, but also to give people a sense of confidence that it’s a safe place to bring families, because it is a family event,” Mayor Mitchell said.

“Some of the things that they do are based in big events elsewhere around the world and so those precautions have happened.”

The Mayor says the some of the preparations are based on violent or terroristic acts at similarly-sized events that occurred elsewhere in the world.

“We’ve seen in other parts of the world these terrorist events involving trucks that plow into crowds. In the past two or three years I think some folks attending the Feast have noticed that we’ve really barricaded the entire perimeter and have done so effectively. So, that’s a big concern we monitor. We don’t let people with backpacks into the concert area. There are a number of other potential threats that we’ll prepare for as well, and the police have been pretty thorough with that,” Mitchell explained.

The 105th Feast of the Blessed Sacrament kicks off on Thursday August 1 and runs through Sunday, August 4.

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