At least three New Bedford City Councilors have expressed disappointment over the 8 p.m. closing time for this year's Whaling City Festival, but Mayor Jon Mitchell told WBSM "the matter seems to be settled."

Appearing on Tim Weisberg's program on Wednesday, Mitchell said closing the festival at 9 p.m., as organizers have sought to do, increases security concerns as darkness falls over a "wide open" Buttonwood Park.

WBSM1420 via YouTube
WBSM1420 via YouTube
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Mitchell said the decision to end the festival at 8 p.m. "was made by the park board" and "it's one that I support." He told Tim there was a "big fight" some 14 years ago "at a time when we closed at 9 p.m."

"I support their rationale," he said.

Mitchell was referring to a 2014 Standard-Times article reporting on the decision to set an 8 p.m. closing time for festivals and fairs held in the city parks.

New Bedford Police Union via Facebook
New Bedford Police Union via Facebook
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Mitchell said the decision to move closing time from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. "was settled 14 years ago" by the park board and has been "pretty consistent over that period."

"One hour is not going to make a big difference," Mitchell said.

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Organizer Mike Sylvia said it's unfair that the Whaling City Festival is forced to close at 8 p.m. while the New Bedford Folks Festival, Day of Portugal, and the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament are allowed to remain open much later.

"Those events are easier to secure than at Buttonwood Park, you have a wide open park," Mitchell said. "That makes a big difference in terms of just maintaining security."

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Townsquare Media
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Sylvia told me his request for a 9 p.m. closing time for the festival was approved by the New Bedford Park Board in February, and it was only a week and a half ago that he was informed of the change.

Councilors Ian Abreu, Brian Gomes, and Scott Lima have all protested the shortened hours and say festival-goers and vendors will lose out.

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