WHALE OF A TIME: While the Whaling City Festival in New Bedford was canceled this year after 45 years, the city will still be the site of about 30 festivals this season. Those include AHA! events, shown above, which take place in downtown New Bedford the second Thursday of each month.
COURTESY CITY OF NEW BEDFORD
SWEET SOUNDS: The Newport Jazz Festival, one of Rhode Island’s signature festivals, began in 1954 and draws thousands of visitors from around the globe annually. Shown above at the 2013 festival is Chick Corea.
COURTESY DOUGLAS MASON
CHOW DOWN: Scott Cowell, owner and chef at Melville Grille in Portsmouth, won second place in the seafood chowder category in the Great Chowder Cook-off. First prize went to a chef from Ireland.
The Great Chowder Cook-off in Newport brings in a stellar group of chefs to compete with Rhode Island’s best. Chowder luminaries arrived this year from restaurants in California, Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Washington State – not to mention from across the ocean.
“The chef who beat me this year was from Westport in County Mayo, Ireland,” said Scott Cowell, owner and chef at Melville Grille in Portsmouth, who won second place in the seafood chowder category in the June 7 competition. “He had a great chowder and they were fantastic people. I make a great chowder and I’ll be back next year.”
The chowder cook-off, which also includes categories for clam chowder and creative chowder, is one of a colorful and varied array of food, music, cultural and recreational festivals that bring thousands of visitors, and their tourism dollars, into Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.
While many of those festivals are thriving, one of the longest running, the Whaling City Festival in New Bedford, was canceled this year after 45 years. The festival board announced the cancellation in a June 17 press release, citing “challenging economic conditions resulting from a decrease in corporate sponsorship, an increase in operating costs and a decrease in volunteers.”
Yet despite the region’s ongoing struggle to escape the after-effects of recession, local festival operators and supporters don’t see the New Bedford festival’s demise as a sign of things to come for their events.
“It’s definitely unfortunate that the Whaling City Festival was canceled,” said Dagny Ashley, tourism director for New Bedford. “The police union is going to do a carnival on the same weekend in the same location.”
New Bedford will still be the site of about 30 festivals this season, said Ashley.
The 2014 season includes the 100th anniversary of the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament from July 31 to Aug. 3, the largest Portuguese festival in New England.