Anyone who grew up in or around New Bedford is familiar with "the Feast."

The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament is a four-day party that occurs each year at Madeira Field in the North End of the city. The event is held at the beginning of August and includes live music, food, drink, dancing, carnival rides, games–and did I mention food and drink? And there is lots of great people-watching, too.

Going to the Feast at least once each year is generally a must for most area residents. Some spend all four nights camped out near the Madeira wine booth or by the pit. Both are good people-watching locations.

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When I was young, the Feast was a three-night affair that was held in late August. It was the last blast before going back to school. I still break out in hives that time of year but that's another story.

When I was a young buck, the Feast was the place to go to be seen and to meet girls. As a parent with young kids, the Feast became about the rides and the parade and less about the nightlife. Rediscovering the Feast after years of staying away in favor of Disney movies and bedtime stories I realized just how much I had changed over the years, but the Feast had remained the same.

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The Feast suffered growing pains–just as I had–and there were times years ago when the fear of trouble kept many folks away. Those days have long since passed and the Feast is once again a safe and family-friendly place for all.

Older and crankier now with sore feet and difficulty staying awake past 10 o'clock, I still enjoy the Feast. Although the crowds can make me long for my couch sometimes, I do make a point of getting to the Feast a couple of times over the weekend.

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Common sense tells me to stay away from the Feast. I eat too much. Get beer spilled on my flip-flopped feet, catch an occasional elbow while maneuvering the crowds and have to walk a mile to and from the car. But how can you stay away?

There is something about the Feast that draws me in. The food, the people, the music, the sounds, the smells. It's magical. Even though Feast time reminds me that the summer season is quickly winding down, it gives me an opportunity to hang on to it a bit longer. The Feast is consistent even though I have changed. It is something that is familiar and there is something comforting in that.

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As the politicians debate immigration policies, the Feast is a perfect reminder of the significant role immigration continues to play in our society. Stop by the Feast next week and you will see beautiful faces of all colors and ethnic and religious backgrounds and sexual orientations coming together to help our Madeiran neighbors to celebrate their cherished culture. And that's as it should be.

See ya at the Feast!

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.