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The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament

Truly experience Portuguese culture at the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament July 28 through the 31 on Madeira Field, in New Bedford, MA.

The smell of chouriço fills the air and the sound of live music echoes throughout the neighborhood. This is no ordinary feast, it is the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, the world’s largest Portuguese feast.

The term “feast” is not taken lightly at this event, where food is available around every corner.  Always popular is the carne de espeto, where feast-goers skewer beef sirloin cubes and cook to their own taste, over a giant outdoor barbecue pit. If one prefers not to cook their own food there are still plenty of options for them from cabra, young goat meat cooked in Portuguese spices, to coelho, stewed tender young rabbit. If these options still appear unappetizing, malassadas never disappoint; they are a deep-fried soft and fluffy Portuguese dough, coated with sugar, enjoyed by all ages.

Now let’s say, that for some unfathomable reason, an individual eats before going to the feast, they can still experience the feast’s flavors through a glass of Madeira wine. This wine is shipped in barrels, directly from the island of Madeira, exclusively for the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament. If one is not of age or chooses not to drink alcohol, one can always enjoy cold Sumol, a delicious Portuguese soda. Despite the abundance of food, the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament offers much more than a full stomach.

At the feast, live Portuguese and American entertainment occurs all day long, all four days, and on three separate stages. From local bands, to performers from The Voice, to traditional Portuguese performances, there is entertainment for everyone at The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament. Kylie Moniz and her girl group, Preminishun, performed at last year’s feast and she explains that “anyone, despite age or culture, could attend and have a great time….[and specifically] in entertainment, there is such a large variety of performances that is it sure to please everyone”.

If this was not already appealing enough, the feast does not charge for admission or entertainment. Therefore, one is welcome to bring their loved ones to the feast, spend the day enjoying continuous live entertainment and experiencing the local culture, and leave without spending a cent.

If the Portuguese cuisine and live entertainment are not enough to stay occupied, there are still many things to enjoy at the feast. Visitors who need an escape from the feast’s bustling atmosphere can take a short walk to the Museum of Madeiran Heritage. This is the only museum dedicated to the islands of Madeira and throughout the feast, admission is free.

For the more adventurous feast-goers, the carnival is open all four days of the feast. Here guests can ride the ferris wheel, play carnival games, and win prizes. If this still is not enough, the feast hosts an annual parade throughout the city filled with musicians, clowns, and floats from over forty participating organizations.

There is no better way to experience a taste of Portuguese culture than a visit to the annual Feast of the Blessed Sacrament. This year’s feast will take place July 28-31 at Madeira Field, New Bedford, Massachusetts. So come take a glimpse into Madeiran culture without having to leave the country this summer.

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