It is with mixed emotions that I welcome feast weekend in New Bedford.

The annual Feast of the Blessed Sacrament is like that old friend that you see once a year.  Nothing much has changed. He still looks good. You pick up right where you left off without skipping a beat. The feast is comfortable. You know what to expect and there is no pretension.

The Feast is also a reminder that the Summer is quickly coming to an end. Just a few more weeks before school is back in session. Vacations wind down and we begin to get serious again. Before you know it it's Halloween and then the holidays are upon us.   Long, cold months lay ahead when we dream of getting back outdoors and of another feast weekend in August.

The feast, often referred to as The Portuguese Feast, draws hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world. It's not the food that draws them. Great Portuguese food can be found everyday in the great restaurants in New Bedford. It's not the Madeira wine that brings folks here. That can be bought at many fine liquor stores throughout the region. It's not the entertainment that's the magnet. Greater New Bedford is known for it's talented entertainers all year long.

What draws people to the feast grounds is the people. It's like homecoming weekend.  The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament brings people home for a family reunion. Stand in one spot long enough, usually by the Madeira wine booth, and everyone you've ever met in your life will eventually pass by.

The feast is also about tradition. From the mass at the Immaculate Conception Church, to the folkloric dancers, the carne de espeto fire pit and the gigantic parade, it's all about tradition.

I am one of the few non-Portuguese New Bedford residents but I love the feast immensely. The feast has become as much about New Bedford's history and tradition as it is about it's Portuguese culture. I look forward to the celebration even if it means the Summer season is winding down.

How much time do you generally spend at the feast each year and what are some of your favorite reasons for going to the feast?

The 103rd Annual Feast of the Blessed Sacrament kicks off at 6pm tonight with opening ceremonies on Madeira Avenue and will run through Sunday night.

Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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