Whaling City Festival Blasts New Bedford Board of Health Decision as ‘Ridiculous’
When Massachusetts COVID restrictions were relaxed by Governor Charlie Baker, Whaling City Festival president Mike Sylvia was ready. He had been planning for July's festival for months, as if it were 2019, in the hopes that they would be able to seamlessly proceed if and when the restrictions were lifted. Sylvia's plan worked – kind of.
Roughly two weeks after receiving approval from the city's park board, Sylvia received an email from the New Bedford Board of Health stating that the festival had jumped the gun on announcing the event.
"Unfortunately, the announcement regarding the festival moving forward was made prior to the completion of the entire permitting process," wrote Dr. Patricia Andrade, Chair of the New Bedford Board of Health. "As a concession, in lieu of cancelling the entire event, the Board of Health will allow the event to proceed with conditions."
Andrade said that as a concession, the board would allow the festival to happen, but would only allow it to run from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., instead of usual 9 p.m. end time that the park board had approved.
Sylvia appeared on Michael and Maddie this morning to voice his frustration. He said in his 24 years with the festival, he's never seen the board of health get involved to that extent, calling it "ridiculous."
"I'm not sure where the train of thought came from on this. You're not going to stop people from coming to the festival," he said. "Why are they doing this now? The state of emergency goes away June 15 and the governor has already lifted all the COVID restrictions at the end of May."
Sylvia questioned the logic behind narrowing the event's start and end times.
"Wouldn't you want the crowd's (arrival times) spread out as much as possible?" he asked. "You're going to jam people into the park at the same time. If you're worried about exposure, you are actually upping your chances of it. It doesn't make any sense."
Sylvia is worried that the abridged version of the festival will hurt the event.
"People really prefer to come in the late afternoon to grab dinner and avoid the heat and humidity. When you're sticky and you're gross, you really don't want to be hanging around a bunch of people," he said.
Last night, the New Bedford City Council voted unanimously to send a letter to New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell asking for the festival to stay open until at least 8:30 p.m.
"I feel like we should be able to stay open until nine o'clock. What we were originally approved for," Sylvia said. "We're able to have full capacity at TD Garden and Gillette Stadium. Why restrict a spread out, outdoor event at Buttonwood Park?"