New Bedford has been wondering if it will ever see another of Joe Jesus' '50s Night events, and there is some stirring that it may make a comeback.

A lot has happened since a small group of us met in March of 2021 to talk about rekindling '50s Night, but those plans were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Representatives from WBSM, Mayor Jon Mitchell's office, New Bedford Police, three classic auto clubs and Dawn Mahler, Joe's granddaughter, discussed restoring the signature event, but it wasn't to be as the pandemic still made large gatherings difficult.

We all surmised that it would take about $12,000 to cover expenses, from paying for the entertainment on different stages, to paying the police officers, and we figured we had to raise roughly that $12,000 from scratch. That still holds to this day. There is absolutely no money to start the event.

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Joe Jesus was such a rare and ideal one-man dynamo, he worked mostly solo throughout the year, piecing together an event that has quite a few moving parts to it. Unfortunately, as many times as we asked Joe to share the responsibilities, he had his reasons for wanting to operate everything himself. That also means he didn't keep notes from year to year, so we had an interesting puzzle to piece together.

A month ago, former Councilor-at-Large candidate Scott Pemberton let me know that he'd be very interested in taking over the reins, if the opportunity arose. Today, he made his intentions public.

City councilors also said they'd welcome back this great event, but time is passing quickly, and action has to start now.

Mayor Jon Mitchell, in his weekly appearance on WBSM Wednesday, indicated the City would certainly offer its support for an event like Joe Jesus' '50s Night.

“It’s without fail a great night, lots of people go out, it’s lots of fun, car collectors get to show off their cars but that’s just one of many things that goes on," Mitchell said. "I can tell you that if somebody wants to keep it going, the City will provide the support it needs.”

Is there still time to have it happen this summer, though?

“No issues on the city’s end," Mitchell said. "Whether organizers have enough time, I’m not sure.”

If Pemberton is indeed ready to take on the challenge of bringing back '50s Night, he will have to follow the blueprint laid out by Joe Jesus as best he can. Mayor Mitchell said it was that singular dedication to the event that made it happen each year.

“It’s an example of one person, namely Joe Jesus, making a big difference. I can’t emphasize that enough. For cities to succeed, you need people to step forward and make things happen," he said. "Joe would certainly turn to city government for help and support, because there’s an appropriate role for city government, but he made it happen. He was never a guy who said, ‘I’ve got this idea – Mayor, you go make this happen.’ It can’t work that way. These things have to be driven by private initiative, by one person, and Joe was great at that.”

Pemberton would be, too, and could just be the person to step into Joe's brightly-colored and perfectly-shined wingtip shoes.

From the positive mood of the people, it looks possible, as long as the public will support it and the money can be raised to get it up and running.

New Bedford's '50s Night Over the Years

Joe Jesus' '50s Night was a longtime staple of New Bedford's summer schedule before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. Take a look at '50s Night over the years.

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