New Motorcycle Parking Area for New Bedford Portuguese Feast
When New Bedford's Feast of the Blessed Sacrament returns this weekend, there will be one notable change: the designated motorcycle parking area has a new location.
The last feast was in 2019 before the COVID pandemic forced a two-year hiatus. That last feast featured a bit of a controversy as bikers who for years parked their motorcycles in front of the Panthers Club on Madeira Avenue across the street from the main entrance to the feast grounds had to find a new place to park.
Citing "emergency security," the New Bedford Licensing Board voted unanimously in July 2019 to prohibit motorcycle parking in front of the Panthers or the club's parking lot.
Some bikers threatened to boycott the feast over the vote, but the crisis was resolved days later when the Ponta Delgada Club just two blocks north of the Panthers offered to let the bikers park there instead.
Feast organizers tell me the decision to ban parking in front of the Panthers was actually per order of the Massachusetts State Police.
When the feast kicks off on Thursday, bikers will be allowed to park at the Panthers again, but not in front. Police Chief Paul Oliveira said the new designated motorcycle parking area will be on Hathaway Street on the south side of the Panthers Club.
"There will be a manned fire truck in the same area," he said, to prevent bikers from entering Madeira Avenue in front of the feast. He said there will also be "police at the main gate, which is close by."
Oliveira said New Bedford Police are ready for the return of the feast.
"We are good to go," he said.