Updated February 27 at 4:27pm

Region is a haven for festivals

By Rhonda J. Miller
PBN Staff Writer

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. More

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TOURISM

Region is a haven for festivals

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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.

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