New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell can do something about the mess that has been made of the Whaling City Festival if he chooses to. He has chosen not to. What a shame.

After the city's Park Commissioners approved the festival's application for July 8-11 at Buttonwood Park, the three-member Board of Health, comprised entirely of Dartmouth residents, lowered the boom on the event. The BoH has overruled the Park Commissioners by setting a 6 p.m. curfew for the festival, citing concerns over COVID-19 as the reason.

That is hogwash. The festival can run safely from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., but come 6 p.m., the COVID cooties come out? Come on, man!

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The New Bedford City Council has voted unanimously to ask Mitchell to apply some pressure to the BoH to allow at least an 8:30 p.m. curfew but to no avail. Mitchell told WBSM's Kate Robinson the BoH's position is "not unreasonable." Baloney. Mitchell said the City Council should deal with the BoH if it wants to extend the closing time.

Once again, Mitchell whiffs at an opportunity to stand with the people. He's getting pretty good at that. Mitchell's reluctance to get involved has more to do with politics than COVID, and that is sad.

Mitchell and his wife earn some pretty serious cash, and they work hard for it. But that means they can afford to take their family away to nice places after being cooped up for more than a year with the pandemic. That is not true for many others in New Bedford who look forward to taking their families to the festival.

Come on, Mayor Mitchell, stand with the people on this. Ask the BoH to reverse its decision. I know to mingle with the common folk is not your cup of tea but the people want and need the Whaling City Festival this year more than ever. Do the right thing.

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 and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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