NEW BEDFORD (WBSM) — The upcoming 107th Feast of the Blessed Sacrament will have new security measures, with New Bedford’s signature event of the summer utilizing specific entrances and metal detectors for the first time.

“We are taking measures to make sure that our people, our patrons are all going to be safe,” Tim Rodrigues, President of Club Madeirense S.S. Sacramento, told WBSM Tuesday. “We’re going to make this place a safer, secure festival.”

Rodrigues said the group has been working with New Bedford Police on some security measures that were requested by the police department about four months ago for the feast, which is taking place August 3 through August 6.

“The main thing is, the police want us to have metal detectors,” Rodrigues said. “There are so many ways to get in and out, and because of that, we’re going to have to limit the entrances and exits into the feast grounds.”

Barrier Fencing Will Be Placed Along the Feast Grounds

Rodrigues said there will be “a couple of barrier fences” along the feast grounds and “four ways in and out,” rather than the ability to enter the grounds from all the surrounding side streets.

“We have to funnel everyone through,” he said, so that visitors can pass through metal detectors before entering the feast grounds.

According to Rodrigues, the barrier fences will be on Earle Street on the back side of the carnival “so no one can jump the fence and sneak in that way,” and on the west side of Madeira Avenue.

“We’re erecting fences in a few areas just to make the perimeter secure. It’s not like we went around the whole block and erected 10,000 feet of fencing,” feast treasurer Jim Vieira told WBSM’s Barry Richard Tuesday. “It’s just a few sections of fence in a couple of spots to make the area secure.”

There Will Be Four Entrances/Exits for the Feast Grounds

Vieira said there will also be fencing along Panthers Club “just to create an alleyway and to feed people through the entranceway at the top of Tinkham Street and Madeira Avenue” as well as “some bike rack fencing just to corral people into the area to get them into the venue.”

Rodrigues said in addition to the Tinkham Street and Madeira Avenue entrance, there will also be one at the corner of Earle Street and Madeira Ave.

“That gives you two spots on the western side of the property to get in and out,” he said.

There will be two other entrances as well.

“For people coming from the east side, from the parking lot area, there will be an entrance near 33 Hathaway Street, right across from Alma Del Mar (charter school),” Rodrigues said. “There will also be one in the middle of Tinkham near the Society of Senhor da Pedra.”

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Security Will Be Handled by the Same Company That Does Boston Calling

Security will be handled by New England Security Solutions out of Rhode Island, which Rodrigues said has experience with festivals like Boston Calling and other large-scale events.

“We chose a good company that has done something like this before,” Rodrigues said. “But there is going to be a learning curve, because it’s new to us, too.”

At first, it was proposed that security could use metal-detecting wands on people entering the feast grounds, but Rodrigues said that would take too long.

“The company convinced us to rent these machines that they have (at Gillette Stadium) and Fenway (Park), and they’re right at the entrance,” he said.

“It’s nothing different than if you go to the Xfinity Center, Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park,” Vieira said. “What you’re expected to go through when you walk into those venues is what we’ll have at the feast grounds.”

The feast will also have the same bag policy it implemented a few years ago in place for this year’s event. That means only clear bags of specific sizes will be allowed in, and bags must be clear. The feast website has a description of bags that are allowed and a complete list of items that are not.

“We’re trying to be proactive rather than reactive,” Vieira said.

How Much Will This Additional Feast Security Cost?

As for the cost of the added security measures, Rodrigues didn’t want to give a specific number.

“It’s a lot,” he said. “We’re not going to cheap out on security and safety. We want people to come, we want families to come. The feast has been around for 107 years, and we want it to be here for another 107 years.”

During their radio interview Tuesday, Richard told Vieira he was told the additional security would cost about $54,000.

“Probably in that ballpark,” Vieira said.

Added Security at the Feast Won’t Mean an Increase in Prices

Although the feast committee is footing the bill for the extra security measures, Vieira said it won’t cost feast goers anything more. Of course, the event remains free to attend, but some worried the additional costs would mean an increase in prices for food and drinks.

“Actually, beers went down a dollar this year and they’re getting a bigger cup,” Vieira said. “This is a big increased cost for us this year, and like everything, costs have gone up, but we try to hold the prices as tight as we can.”

That means you won’t have to pay more for a malasada or some carne d’espito.

“Nothing’s going up,” Vieira said. “We just want to sell more, so come by and buy a few more.”

Tim Weisberg/Townsquare Media
Tim Weisberg/Townsquare Media
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New Bedford Police Chief, Public Safety Chair Applaud New Feast Security Measures

New Bedford Police Chief Paul Oliveira said the police department and the feast committee have “always enjoyed a positive relationship.”

“We are all in agreement that the introduction of metal detectors will be a great enhancement. I’m pleased that this new safety measure is being implemented,” Oliveira told WBSM. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the committee to ensure a positive event this year and many more to come.”

City Councilor at Large Brian Gomes, who chairs the council’s Committee on Public Safety and Neighborhoods, told Richard on Tuesday that he supports the feast’s new security measures.

“Safety is first,” Gomes said. “There are measures that have been put in place by the feast for some time and I think they’ve improved each and every year to make sure the feast goes off without a glitch.”

Gomes said it is impressive how few incidents there are each year at the feast, which can draw over 100,000 people over the course of four days. Last year, there were only 10 arrests made during the feast.

Gomes said bringing in the fencing and the metal detectors “makes the public feel safe” and that it “will continue to be a safer feast in 2023.”

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