New Bedford's Working Waterfront Festival

                Your friendly fish lady Tiffani, and I returned early Tuesday morning from The Working Waterfront Festival in New Bedford Mass.  Thanks to a fire at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Friday, flights had been sufficiently delayed to cause a near riot feeling by the time we came through there on Monday.  Luckily the mayhem was close enough to being cleared up we were only slightly delayed, but it was delay enough to force us to pull an all-nighter which in turn required yesterday (Tuesday) to be an unscheduled ‘brain-dead day’.  Now, with all that out of the way, feelin’ good, (though the condition of my brain is still arguable) I will try to impart to you the highpoints of our trip. 

                We were invited out to participate in the festival, Tiff to do a cooking demonstration and I to read some of my poetry and participate on a couple panels. The festival took place over two days, Saturday & Sunday, and occupied the two main docks that make up New Bedford’s working waterfront.  Music and the spoken word were performed on the ‘Main Stage’ and the ‘Steamship Stage’ as well as on the fish boat ‘Alaska’.  The cooking demonstration tent also housed the ‘Seafood Throwdown’ where two local chefs competed using only a species of fish made known to them just before the contest and ingredients obtained at the on-premises farmers market.  The scallop shuckin’ contest is always the favorite, but there was also a web (net) sewing contest and a tug boat muster, along with a whale boat and survival suit race.  The ‘Food Tent’ fed everyone, and the thirty or so venders and other industry related organizations completed the festival. 

                On Friday before the festival, in three teams made up of poets and musicians, we went to some of the local high-schools to read poetry or perform music.  That night the same crew did an intimate show in the upstairs of the historic ‘Seaman’s Bethel’ where parts of the 1956 movie of ‘Moby Dick’ had been filmed.  Placards lined the walls dating back to the early 1800’s commemorating whaling crews, and other seamen that had been lost to the sea, intensifying the feeling that we were in a sacred place, I imagined the crews of all those vessels occupying the balcony seats.

                Tiffani’s cooking demonstration went well, her ceviche turned out awesome!  A surprising number of people had never had it before and were pleased to learn of a fish dish so great tasting and easy to prepare.  For days leading up to the event I offered to do the demonstration with her because I know she’s a little shy about talking to crowds, but my independent bride kept telling me she wanted to do it on her own.  However, when crunch time came she decided it wouldn’t be so bad to have me up there, so I talked to the crowd and read a couple poems while she prepared her dish.  It sure was nice to feel needed!

                When we weren’t busy with festival stuff Tiff and I tried to cram in as much sight-seeing as we could, cobblestone streets, whale-boat captain’s homes, seems you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting something historic in New Bedford.  We went on a boat tour of the harbor; saw the hurricane gate, which can be closed to protect the harbor from unusually foul weather.  The Whale Museum is a must-see, dedicated to New Bedford’s rich whaling history without glorifying the act of hunting whales, also giving an education about whales and their need for protection.    

                    As often happens with me and things involving art I didn’t realize beforehand how badly I was in need of it.  Working all the time, even when its work I enjoy seems to suck the color out of life, and things were starting to get kinda grey.  Re-connecting with some old friends and making a ton of new ones, sharing my contribution with them, letting them share theirs with me, really re-charged my batteries and now I’m ready to push hard till Thanksgiving.  Tiff and I are already looking forward to next year’s festival.    

Fair weather and good fishin-

-Rob Seitz