By Auditi Guha
May 07. 2016 7:53PM
NEW BEDFORD — One thing is clear after the Viva Portugal celebration downtown Saturday — folks here love a festa.
“This is great. It’s really nice. Very entertaining and I had some good food — cacoila and rice pudding,” said Cathy Botelho from Fall River who stopped by the Portugalia tent to watch cooking demos. “It’s a wonderful idea. I wish they would do it in Fall River.”
Chef Tony Abreau, who cooks at the annual Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, whipped up some fried sweet rice balls at 5 p.m. and also spoke highly of the new endeavor. “The organizers did a lot of work and brought a lot of people out,” he said. “It’s great.”
Madeiran floats, an Azorean whaleboat, a kids comedy troupe and live music livened up a block of downtown around the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center as Portuguese organizations came together for the city’s first Viva Portugal festa.
“It’s fantastic!” said Rose Carvalho, manager of Portugalia Marketplace in Fall River that had a booth selling jams, sardines, olive oil and other island imports by the Spring Street stage. “We are a sponsor, and we are seeing many of our regular customers here.”
Visiting with her husband, New Bedford High School teacher Valerie Alves spoke highly of the event. “It’s very important to have more of these and celebrate the different cultures in the city,” she said.
As the Three Cousins played traditional Portuguese music with two mandolins and an accordion, volunteers at the Azorean Maritime Heritage Society tent helped kids race boats and tie knots on Purchase Street. Meanwhile, volunteers Ludgero Da Silva and master boatbuilder Sr. Joao stopped by the whaleboat display to eat cacoila sandwiches they bought from one of the street vendors.
Inside the tent, the Museum of Madeiran History showcased a variety of folk art and craft, books and history.
“I think this is wonderful for the community and the whole city,” said Zita Quintal, festa volunteer and museum curator.
An organizers of the event, Portuguese consul Pedro Carneiro said he loved the atmosphere, the spirit and “people having fun and learning a little more about Portugal.”
Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, left the fair with two pieces of student artwork to benefit Portuguese United for Education, one of whales in Pico made by his 7-year-old daughter, Victoria.
“I think this is a great initiative. I’m hoping it becomes a tradition downtown,” he said.
Rosemary Gill, executive director of programming and development at the Zeiterion and one of the organizers of the event, said she was happy with the way it turned out.
“It’s definitely been a wonderful collaboration of some of the best Portuguese institutions in the area, and I am very proud to be one of their friends,” she said.
The festa happened around the streets of the Z that hosted the closing event — a fado concert and a post-show reception with the artists Nathalie Pires and Marco Rodrigues.
Follow Auditi Guha on Twitter @AuditiG_SCT.