New Bedford’s Working Waterfront Festival might attract even more people in years to come thanks to its recent designation as one of North America’s top 100 events.
The designation, given by the American Bus Association, could make the event an attraction for motorcoach tour groups, which spend an average of $5,000 to $13,000 during one-night visits, according to the ABA’s Web site.
“We’re encouraged to think that bus tours might come to the event,” said Ann Marie Lopes, director of tourism and marketing for the City of New Bedford. “Our hope is that once they come to the festival, they’ll see what the city has to offer and they’ll come back.”
Summer is the busiest time for the city, she added. Every weekend there are things for tourists, including motorcoach groups, to do.
Last month, for example, the first South Coast Gospel Music Festival, organized by the Inter-Church Council, drew more than 1,000 people, she said.
The Working Waterfront Festival, taking place Sept. 22 and 23, last year attracted 12,000 people, said Laura Orleans, director of the four-year-old festival, which is free for all attendees.
But to her knowledge, Orleans said, she doesn’t know of any motorcoach tour groups that have attended in years past.
The ABA represents about 1,000 motorcoach and tour operators in the United States and Canada who have the opportunity to view the top 100 events each year.
Orleans said she hopes some of them will see this year’s festival in September, which is a perfect time to plan a stop in New Bedford on their way to see the New England foliage.
In addition, she hopes that the more people who visit the Working Waterfront Festival, the more people will learn about how important it is to support the commercial fishing industry.
The purpose of the festival is to celebrate the industry through live music, tours of commercial fishing boats, net-mending and trap-making demonstrations, cooking demonstrations and storytelling by fishermen and boat captains.
This year, Captains Phil Harris and Johnathan Hillstrand, who were featured on the Discovery Channel’s series “Deadliest Catch,” will be telling their stories about fishing in the Bering Sea.
There also will be a special film and video tent showing footage that some New Bedford fishermen have taken during their fishing trips.
“It’s like their own ‘Deadliest Catch,’ ” Orleans said.
And because this year the festival’s theme is “Women and the Working Waterfront,” there will be special panel discussions with female captains and fishermen about their experiences in the industry, she said.
Orleans said another benefit of the ABA’s designation is that it helps in obtaining and retaining corporate sponsorship and other funding for the festival.
“Having the designation is like a stamp of approval,” she said. “It lets corporate funders know it’s a quality event.”