Screw your courage to the sticking place…

It’s been awhile since I did a YOUR WEEKEND round-up of select events in New Bedford – which used to be a regular feature of this blog. But since this weekend promises to be epic, I thought it a good time to jump back into the fray.

I was also persuaded to revisit YOUR WEEKEND due to the fact that I received something rare in my inbox this past week. A professionally-written press release for “Shakespeare in Buttonwood” from Korey Pimental. In a Communications-challenged city, it was a welcome sight  – and nice to know that at least UMass Dartmouth does something right by its Communications students! (Pimental is a recent grad.)

Anyway, let’s ease into things with…a picnic…

An AHA! Fun-Raiser

THURSDAY, AUG. 16

AHA! Director Lee Heald had a simple idea last summer that turned into something quite special. A bring-your-own-picnic at Haskell Public Gardens. It turned into a terrific community evening last year; every table was full and it was a pleasant happening with pleasant people in a pleasant place. Nothing wrong with that – in fact, there’s a lot right about that.

Tonight, it’s happening again from 6:00-8:00 p.m., again at Haskell, the sweet gem of a spot off Shawmut Avenue. $20 gets you a seat at the table, you bring a basket. In case you’re challenged in the kitchen, The Baker will be on hand with some treats for sale.

You can reserve a spot here – but do it quickly. The only thing slow about the night is the bluegrass band performing, Slow Boat Home.

Operation Clean Sweep

SATURDAY, AUG. 18

Groundwork! member, Mindy Wallis is into trash – as in, picking it up off our streets. It’s quite possible she’s volunteered for every neighborhood clean-up event since moving to the city a couple of years ago!

She’s at it again today – and wants to spread the word. Today’s Operation Clean Sweep kicks off from Servpro at 1476 Purchase Street at 8:30 a.m. It’s being co-hosted by Veterans Transition House & Anne Whiting Real Estate. If you’d like to lend a hand – and walk-ins are welcome – know the following: FREE breakfast; FREE T-Shirt; FREE Re-usable water bottle; FREE lunch by Domino’s Pizza; Gloves and tools provided; and Community Service hours provided.

Need more info to be persuaded? Find it here.

3rd EyE meets SUPERFLAT

THROUGH SATURDAY, AUG. 18

You’d have to be living under a rock if you aren’t aware that what is going to make this weekend epic is the the 20th edition of the 3rd EyE Open – the homegrown, amazing hip hop music and dance festival.

Over 60 performers will be on stages throughout the downtown – and this year, there’s something new: SUPERFLAT, the public art group, will be holding their first mural festival at the same time. Indeed, the street art got underway in Wings Court and overlooking Custom House Square Park on Wednesday and runs through Saturday.

I write all about it in this week’s Coastin’ State of the Arts column, so follow this link to discover all the details!

Screw your courage to the sticking place.

SATURDAY, AUG. 18 & SUNDAY, AUG. 19

Finally, here’s how Korey Pimental made the lives of Arts & Entertainment editors throughout Southcoast easier…lightly edited because old dogs can still teach young pups a trick or two. ;-)

Shakespeare in Buttonwood, New Bedford’s free Shakespeare event, returns for a three-performance run of the classic tragedy, Macbeth in Buttonwood Park. The tale of what happens when misguided ambition gets swept up in matters of fate marks the program’s second year, preceding the inaugural dystopian production of Romeo & Juliet last summer.

Shakespeare in Buttonwood’s Macbeth will run for three performances: Saturday, August 18 at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. and Sunday, August 19 at 1:00 p.m. (NOTE: SATURDAY’S PERFORMANCES HAVE BEEN MOVED TO GALLERY X, 169 WILLIAM STREET, DUE TO THE LIKELY CHANCE OF SOME RAIN TODAY.)The show will take place at the Buttonwood Park baseball diamond, behind the Lawler Library. Audience members are encouraged to bring a blanket or a lawn chair as seating will not be provided. For more information, visit Shakespeare in Buttonwood presents Macbeth on Facebook.

“Last year, Shakespeare in Buttonwood launched with a unique vision of what Romeo & Juliet looked like to us as a company. This year, at least aesthetically, feels more like what a traditional production of this piece would be. However, we are still putting our own spin on the show.” Korey Pimental, Artistic Director of Glass Horse Project, states.

Continuing Shakespeare in Buttonwood with another tragedy was purely logistical, he continued, noting that Shakespeare’s tragedies are the ones most frequently read in schools and the texts the general population seems to remember best.

He adds, “I think why the tragedies are so well-known, both as great pieces of literature and great pieces of drama, is because they start off with a larger than life problem or anxiety that no one can figure out how to resolve and by the end, everyone has learned a lesson. It shows how mutable and possible of change humanity really is.”

Macbeth tells the story of a Scottish general and his quest for absolute power after a prophecy predicts his reign as king. Director Alyssa Steen, who played scene-stealing Mercutio in last year’s Romeo & Juliet, says “Macbeth is one of the greatest tragedies ever written and performed. It shows a darker truth to human nature; despite magic, or outside influence, the choice to act is ultimately up to the individual.”

This year’s production keeps the story in its original setting, opting to instead play up the fantastical and grittier elements of the Bard’s famous tragedy. Audience members can expect to see kilts and more traditional weaponry in the fight choreography, a staunch contrast from the unique weapons last year’s fights called for.

Garrett Olson, Glass Horse’s resident fight choreographer and fight and safety director adds, “I am thrilled and proud of the hard work our actors have done to create these very exciting and believable fights.”

The cast has been hard at work since the end of May, rehearsing every Saturday at the New Bedford Free Public Library—two hours in the morning for those involved in stage combat and an additional four hours to rehearse the show itself.

Leeandra Booth, who makes her Shakespeare in Buttonwood debut with Macbeth as both the gentlewoman and Third Witch acknowledges the level of commitment the cast has for the project by chiming in, “we are a group of hardworking individuals.”

The cast in total is made up of twelve total actors, with a large majority of the company taking on more than one role – as was common practice in Shakespeare’s time. The acting company of Macbeth spans a wide range in both age and experience. Some members of the company are trying Shakespeare for the first time, while others in the company have been acting for decades, both in community and professional settings.

This year’s production of Macbeth also marks the second year of collaboration between the City of New Bedford, New Bedford Free Public Library, New Bedford Department of Parks, Recreation, & Beaches, and local fringe theatre company, The Glass Horse Project.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the New Bedford, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, & Westport cultural councils, local agencies which are supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.

A bit of Santa Rosa de Copán on New Bedford’s Acushnet Avenue

Nataly, Raymond and Jeffrey Pelletier in front of Sara’s Bakery on Acushnet Avenue, New Bedford last week.

Here’s a story right out of a Nicholas Sparks novel.

New Bedford native Jeffrey Pelletier was a volunteer worker in Honduras years ago.

Unfortunately, Jeff’s desire to help ran a bit of ahead of his proficiency speaking Spanish.

Therefore, within an hour of starting work at the relief organization, a supervisor paired him with a colleague who not only knew Spanish well, but also the country.

That person was Nataly, a native of Honduras. Who would one day become Nataly Pelletier of New Bedford after the couple married – and then ran the gauntlet of hurdles the country seems to place in front of people emigrating to the country. Even with a ring on their finger and a bona fide romance story on their resume!

The couple persevered after their serendipitous meeting and managed to survive dealing with the bureaucratic nightmare that defines immigration to the United States these days.  

The happy ending now finds Jeffrey Pelletier the President of Junior Achievement Southern Massachusetts and Nataly Pelletier a Spanish language teacher at Friends Academy in Dartmouth.

But that’s only the beginning of this story. Because once in New Bedford, Jeff and Nataly began embarking on another sort of journey. A journey to jointly discover the city Jeff grew up in – from a different perspective.

For both, especially Nataly, that meant finding the places in the City of New Bedford that have been at the forefront of welcoming new residents to the city from Central American countries like Honduras or Guatemala.

Of course, that meant exploring Acushnet Avenue – the North End’s International Marketplace. And it’s there that Nataly found a bit of her home – Santa Rosa de Copán – in New Bedford.

Nataly explains that adapting to any new culture can be a challenge – especially when it comes to diet. The basic ingredients that define a family meal are suddenly all different when you move to another country.

That’s why in places that are home to significant numbers of any one nationality, you’ll typically find eateries and markets opening up that import or prepare foods that are familiar. The Italians did it in New York; certainly the Portuguese in New Bedford; and now, newer residents of Latin and Central American ancestry here, too.

Which is why on Acushnet Avenue, Jeff and Nataly first discovered Sara’s Bakery. It’s a terrific spot on the corner of Acushnet Avenue and Tallman Street that makes Central American bread and pastries. It also carries meats, cheeses and canned and dry goods imported from points south.

A specialty of Sara’s is the Central American version of sweet bread. It’s a bit sweeter than the Portuguese version and a bit more dense in texture. Perfect for dipping into your morning coffee. A run to Sara’s for conchas is a frequent excursion for the Pelletiers.

Nataly picking up some conchas – sweet bread – at Sara’s Bakery.

So, too, is visiting the markets on Acushnet Avenue that have opened for business that carry all those hard to find ingredients. Union Fruit Market at 1437 Acushnet Avenue and Americas Market at 1502 Acushnet Avenue boast well-stocked shelves of South and Central American foods, including meats.

When family comes to visit from Honduras, they are especially helpful in creating the menus that will greet the guests to New Bedford.

“My family brings great coffee with them when they visit,” Nataly says, “And I bring mom to the markets.”

For those even more challenged by Spanish than Jeff was back when he met Nataly in Honduras, it’s okay to shop at Sara’s and just point at what looks good in the bakery case. Which is plenty.

Or, Google some recipes and products before you hit the The Ave’s International Marketplace and go on a voyage of your own discovery.

When we visited Sara’s Bakery last week, Nataly provided the translation that facilitated the eatery learning about and joining the Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week happening from Sat. Sept. 15 through Fri. Sept. 21 – a perfect time to visit, if you’ve never been before.

Note that I wrote Nataly, because although improved, she tells me Jeff’s Spanish still has room for improvement.

However, she also said she sometimes prepares Central American-flavored foods for her Spanish students at Friends Academy to immerse them into the culture as well as the language.

So, I suspect Jeff is just playing for time and taking advantage of what Nataly’s creating in the kitchen from the Acushnet Avenue shopping.

Smart man.

Learn more about Junior Achievement of Southern Massachusetts here.

Learn more about Friends Academy here.

Learn more about the Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week here.

Why the North End needs a Restaurant Week

I’m still waiting to get mugged.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been walking up and down Acushnet Avenue signing up restaurants and eateries for the LOVE THE AVE & NORTH END RESTAURANT WEEK happening from Saturday, Sept. 15 through Friday, Sept. 21, 2018.

The event is part of a larger effort – an outgrowth of my participation in the LOVE THE AVE committee. That’s the group dedicated to promoting all things Acushnet Avenue – a unique commercial corridor that forms the backbone of New Bedford’s north end.

I call it the city’s most relentlessly urban space – because it actually is. A SRTA study found that this area of the city is the most densely populated. But, most densely urban space sounds kind of dumb – while relentlessly urban has a plucky quality to it that signifies something.

Like, Acushnet Avenue won’t give up or give in. Sure, like other areas, it’s suffered from economic disinvestment over the years, and still has to welcome the full benefits of urban rediscovery common to many cities these days. Such as found downtown.

That will happen – but in the meantime, you have to face facts and tackle the most obvious problems first.

As far as The Ave goes, the biggest challenge is confronting the perception of the street as full of blight and crime-ridden.

It’s simply not the reality. In fact, a big story right now in the city that’s waiting to be reported on is the effective but humane way the New Bedford Police Department is operating everywhere under Chief Joseph Cordeiro.

As I wrote, I’m still waiting for my mugging. It hasn’t happened. Instead, I’ve been welcomed into the most interesting eateries from one end of The Ave to the other and found rooms full of people having fun – and eating well.

Acushnet Avenue and the surrounding area probably has the highest concentration of restaurants, bakeries and casual eateries in the City of New Bedford. These are small businesses driving the area forward in the best possible way.

The cultural diversity of the north end is found in these places. Alongside established and often beloved spots like Mimo’s Cafe, Cafe Portugal, and Europa Cafe, serving traditional Portuguese food, you now find Sara’s Bakery, La Razza and Elizabeth’s offering Central American or Hispanic fare.

It’s a reflection of the changing streetscape here – and a good one. Walking The Ave these past few weeks, I’ve discovered it’s a place that many cultures feel as if they want to invest in. That’s why it’s known as the “International Marketplace.”

That’s the safe, city-sanctioned label for Acushnet Avenue – and it ain’t bad. But, I prefer relentlessly urban and will always call it that. Because that tells you something true.

La Raza – authentic tacos for $2.50 on Acushnet Avenue!

It’s when you step inside terrific joints like Sara’s, Lydia’s,  Lorenzo’s,  Top Shelf or Girassol Restaurant that you really feel the vitality of a relentlessly urban space. There’s life happening here all day long and into the night.

That doesn’t make headlines – but it should. And that’s what the LOVE THE AVE & NORTH END RESTAURANT WEEK in September is all about: making news for all the right reasons, not the wrong ones.

Sure, there will be special deals, signature dishes and menu additions during the week. But the love works both ways and restaurant week is an opportunity to give some to the hard-working people who have kept the lights on all these years or chosen to invest their time in making Acushnet Avenue and the entire north end a better place to live, work, shop and dine today.

It’s an exciting project, and I’ve been enjoying myself pounding the pavement up on The Ave. Girassol Restaurant was a great discovery; I had never been in before. But Joslyn Feliciano at the Community Economic Development Center told me they had the best steak in town.

She was right – and we enjoyed a couple on a beautiful summer Friday evening after strolling up The Ave from her office. The street was alive with people and sounds and fun.

Sharing that experience with new people is what restaurant week is all about. Follow all the news and updates about Restaurant Week from the Love The Ave Facebook page here.

Acushnet Avenue and the north end need a restaurant week because it deserves one. It’s a reflection of New Bedford now – a fully-functioning city that’s capable of embracing and supporting all of its neighborhoods from one end of the city to another.

Now that’s relentlessly urban.

A Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World

The Grand Panorama being installed at Kilburn Mill.

A nice perk of being a writer and journalist is the opportunity to check things out before they are headlines. That happened last week when I got a preview of the Whaling Museum’s restored 1,275 foot long “Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World.”

Originally painted around 1850, it was lost in an attic for years before being discovered and donated to the museum. The last time it was displayed in its entirety was 1964, in New Bedford and at the World’s Fair in Queens. Now, it is being exhibited at Kilburn Mill at Clarks Cove, located in the city’s south end at 127 W. Rodney French Boulevard.

That’s where I was a week ago this morning, being given a tour of the space and a look at the panorama for a Standard-Times story I was writing. (Story here, with additional exhibit information.) Scheduled to open that Saturday, it was all hustle and bustle at Kilburn that morning – but the owners and crew were gracious with their time and gave me great access to the building.

Since the museum wanted to keep the stunning work under wraps until the opening, I was only able to take a few pictures and promised not to share them until after the debut. That has happened (the free exhibit is open to the public now every day from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.) so I can share a few snaps and observations here.

One observation is this: do enjoy these photos, but recognize that they are no substitute for seeing the Grand Panorama in person. It’s a “WOW” best experienced for yourself.

Another thought is about the space itself. It is terrific to see it activated and utilized for this purpose. Hopefully it will inspire thoughts of just how best to use great buildings like these for new purposes going forward.

Groundwork! itself is located in a historic building that’s a good example of adaptive reuse. Originally built in 1898 as a textile school, it’s now home to this coworking space and other offices. As New Bedford architect Kathryn Duff says, “An existing building is the most sustainable building.”

Kilburn Mill overlooks beautiful Clarks Cove and the Cove Walk.

Finally, while we sometimes take the complicated legacy of whaling for granted, it’s still a defining characteristic of New Bedford’s history. And, the restoration of this unique work of art – the longest painting in the entire world, according to the Whaling Museum – is, to quote Joe Biden, a BFD.

It is bringing national and international attention to the city and burnishing its appeal as an arts destination. As the old saying goes, you can’t buy that kind of publicity. Generously sharing the news about this one-of-a-kind event in the City of New Bedford speaks well of all of us as gracious hosts to visitors this summer.

New Bedford’s real parking problem

The National Park Service gets it right with its thoughtful placement of bike racks at its visitor’s center on William Street.

Studies have been done. Streetscapes have been ripped up. And parking garages have gone up, come down, then gone up again. Over the years, New Bedford has worked mightily to address its parking problem.

In reality, there isn’t a parking problem. There’s a walking problem – as in Americans become neurotic when they can’t find a parking place exactly where they want it when they need it. When that parking space turns out to be on the next block downtown, OMG! We have a parking problem.

Meanwhile, those of us less auto-dependent and more physically active have to contend with the real parking problem…(cue dramatic music)….

The lack of bike racks almost everywhere throughout the city.

And guess what, this isn’t a city problem – as in City of New Bedford. The city has done its part. There has been a real effort to install bike racks in very many public places from city libraries and parks, beaches and baseball fields.

So who has been the scofflaw in this story? Mainly, businesses – like restaurants and bars, bakeries and corner stores.

Pay attention to details

When I was a wee lad, I spent a summer on the Jersey Shore working at a small restaurant called the Raspberry Cafe. It was a nifty but small spot – five tables and a counter – but an eclectic mostly vegetarian menu and, importantly, outdoor seating which allowed it to serve many more customers than the indoors could handle.

The owners worked hard to make sure it was an inviting, well-run place. They went out of their way to pay attention to details.

One thing that caught their eye was the number of people who would cycle up and down along the boardwalk and then stop in for breakfast or lunch. For many, it was their weekend routine.

So, they wanted the cafe to function well for all these folks, and did something that no one else had done before in the commercial district: They installed bike racks for these patrons to park their bikes at while eating.

Needless to say, they were a big hit. All those cyclists kept coming back for their granola, banana and yogurt breakfasts because they felt welcome – and could park their vehicle.

Soon, bike racks were everywhere, as other merchants caught on. And lo and behold, the town became known as a bicycle-friendly place – another feather in its cap.

A Six-Pack and a Schwinn

Though I’ve always been a prolific bike rider, the lack of bike racks is really getting on my nerves this summer and causing me to cast an evil eye on some favorite places.

I’d rather not name names, but urge any establishment reading this – especially the ones who offer outdoor seating or grab-and-go offerings – to consider making the economical and customer-friendly decision to install bike racks where possible at your place of business. It will only grow your business.

As noted, the city has done a good job of making bike racks available at many public spaces. So has the Whaling National Historic Park at its visitor’s center. Bizarrely, UMass Dartmouth CVPA has none at its Star Store campus.

(And to clarify, leaving your bike a few blocks over and out of sight isn’t the same as parking your car on the next block. We are in an urban environment and wheels, seats and other bicycle parts have been known to go missing – if not the entire bike! Bike racks should be placed where there is a reasonable expectation that eyes will be on them.)

Perhaps the funniest instance of a place suffering from a lack of a bike rack is a popular and well-populated liquor store I visited last week.

A rather gamey place under the best of circumstances, a fight broke out over the ownership of both a six-pack and a Schwinn, which had been leaning, unchained, against the side of the building while its owner found his libations inside.

The rightful owner won the fight. But, I’d like to win the war – and see more bike racks all over New Bedford. If for no other reason than to keep the peace!

New Bedford Now: Coastin’ expands its reach

Standard-Times editor, Beth Perdue announces a new vision for Coastin’ during a meeting at the newspaper’s Elm Street headquarters in New Bedford on Wed. June 27, 2018.

Most of us probably aren’t accustomed to hearing good news from the daily newspaper industry. Since the advent of the Internet era through the ascent of social media era, it seems like it’s been an unrelenting story of economic decline which in turn has meant less relevance for the municipal institutions which help define their cities like almost no other civic entity.

Yet, so many of us recently have become all too aware of just how important independent news sources are to our local and national sense of society. Just maybe, dailies won’t go entirely the way vinyl records once did before they are appreciated for their superior ability to enable to us to hear beyond the echo chamber.

As in many industries, this is going to entail innovation. A seizing of the fertile opportunities new technology can provide rather than its incessant challenges.

Coastin’ “blows up”!

The Standard-Times – Southcoasttoday.com to many now – took a giant step forward into the future this week when it announced a new, regional platform and game plan for its arts and cultural coverage: A joining of forces between itself and Fall River’s Herald News, which will define the entire South Coast area as a regional destination in Massachusetts and for New England.

That platform is Coastin’ – the weekly insert that appears every Thursday within The Standard-Times in print. As the importance of the region’s arts and culture community and economy has surged, so to has the need for a resource dedicated to properly communicating that story to readers, patrons and consumers.

Arts groups expressed this to editors at the newspaper during a 2016 meeting – and they listened.

The Coastin’ website has been upgraded and will include all the stories you expect to see – and others that offer a wider look at the world around us everyday. Southcoasttoday.com/Coastin and HeraldNews.com/Coastin will become a pan-regional portal into the arts and culture scene.

Start spreading the news…

Many readers of this blog probably know that I write a weekly column for Coastin’ called State of the Arts. It is and will always be focused on New Bedford. That won’t change – but what will change is the number of people who will now get to read the column and learn about the amazing efforts of the city’s creative folks. That’s exciting.

For Fall River, it mean the Herald News will rebrand its print entertainment section as Coastin’ – and get in on the fun New Bedford has been enjoying for many years now. However, editorial in each printed edition will most often be unique to each city.

But by seizing the chance to bind the region together in one powerful brand, the editors of both newspapers are recognizing the promise of scaling up – while doubling down on what’s making South Coast soar.

That would be its unique cultural identity – which is finally being recognized as a powerful force for progressive industry and progress across all sectors of society.

In this week’s Coastin’ – on newsstands now and on the revamped website today – I write about the lessons New Bedford has learned by learning to collaborate as a creative economy. You can read that column here  – and now, so can people from Seekonk to Wareham.

That’s a good thing – because as detailed in the story, the city is leading the way in such a way that other communities can learn from its example. That enriches the entire region – and circles back to empower its hub, the City of New Bedford.

A story of innovation and purpose

As constantly chronicled on this blog and in the pages of The Standard-Times and online at Southcoasttoday.com, the story of this city is no longer one of decline – but one of renewal. Now, that’s being reflected and mobilized in a positive way to uplift the entire region – through innovation and purpose.

Like effective collaboration, change in the means and methods of the delivery of news and information can be messy to navigate.

But by betting on strategic thinking over stagnation and decline, the city’s daily newspaper, The Standard-Times and its online counterpart, Southcoasttoday.com, is proving that the relevance of newspapers of historic importance have a voice which speaks to the future, not the past.

Watching the World Cup in Europe – On The Ave

Crab Cakes, stuffed mushrooms and favas followed by Sagres at Cotali Mar.

You would be excused if you thought you were in a corner of Europe sitting in the courtyard of Cotali Mar restaurant on Acushnet Avenue watching Portugal take on Iran during the World Cup.

The outdoor seating area out back of the restaurant is a gracious walled terrace within the city’s most relentlessly urban space. A fountain, an outdoor fireplace, tables, chairs and umbrellas are all arranged throughout the generous space in a way which allows you to appreciate al fresco dining.

On Monday, June 25, a 70-inch television was placed out on the terrace and Cotali Mar, normally closed on Monday, was host to about a dozen or so special guests to watch the World Cup match between Portugal and Iran.

Naturally, any occasion to cheer on Portugal is a cause for celebration along The Ave, which has benefits from the city’s huge Portuguese presence with an ample portion of restaurants like Cotali Mar serving cuisine from the old country.

The terrace of Cotali Mar.

So, it was an enthusiastic group that gathered to watch – especially evident when Ricardo Quaresma scored. There were moans when Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty kick, but the conversation before did conclude that the team needed to become less dependent on its star player. And besides, despite a late surge by the Iranians, Portugal still advances and faces Uruguay on Saturday, June 30 at 2:00 p.m.

Heading back to Cotali Mar to watch that match is on the agenda. Even though the restaurant was technically closed on Mondays, owner Carlos Madeira put out an impressive spread for guests – which included this wayward chronicler who mistakenly thought Cotali Mar was open for regular business. Nonetheless, he was welcomed to the table by the generous host instead of being handed a red card.

Grilled chicken, crab cakes, favas, whole crabs and more were brought out of the kitchen to the terrace with mouth-watering results as the match got underway. Needless to say, it was an appreciative bunch of World Cup spectators, who were also well-lubricated by Portugal’s signature beer, Sagres.

Sitting outside on a warm, sunny day full of Portuguese food and watching the World Cup, you almost felt as if you were in Portugal itself. It’s the pleasure of the city to possess a place like this on a street dubbed its International Marketplace – especially so when it’s a World Cup year like 2018.

Deep Dive into Clasky Common Farmers Market

Marisa Barone and Ian Nichols of Backyard Garden.

Last week, I wrote about the growing, informal urban agriculture network springing to life in New Bedford. This week, we’re looking at one piece of it – the terrific, weekly Saturday morning Farmers Market at Clasky Common Park.

The Coastal Foodshed Farmers Market at Clasky Common is just a few blocks down Pleasant Street from Groundwork!  (which is located at 1213 Purchase Street.) It’s been a weekend pick for several summers now for most members, like myself – and more summers for others. This farmers market was the city’s first, launched some years ago now. Like all things, it’s evolved over time.

Drew of Silver City Acres.

This year’s crop is especially interesting. As I noted last week, newcomers Backyard Garden have joined the line-up of stands at the market, along with Silver City Acres. Sampson Farm – which brought amazing strawberries and their signature potatoes to the market last week – is a hold-over from last season.

Marisa Barone and Ian Nichols, the Backyard Garden team, tell me that they lease their land out in Westport. They get acreage and the landowners receive a tax credit for agriculture. They work the land well; their produce is stupendous.

Marisa and Ian tell me something else very interesting: They enjoy being at the New Bedford Farmers Market more than others in the region, by far.

They say people actually shop for food here, and that makes them feel purposeful. At other locations – which won’t be disclosed – they feel shoppers purchase little of actual purpose, but instead stop by more as a social rather than dietary function.

That may be because Coastal Foodshed has been progressive in administering the markets. Also, New Bedford Farmers Markets are indeed necessary, as some areas of the city are severely under-served when it comes to fresh produce.

Sampson’s Potatoes are a Clasky Common staple.

That’s certainly the case with Clasky Common. It’s at the eastern edge of a large, residential swath of the city which doesn’t see a supermarket until Hathaway Road to the north, Down to Earth way out west by Rockdale Avenue, and Price-Rite off Rt. 18 heading south.

To meet the need, Coastal Foodshed is launching something new this summer: pop-up farmers markets around the city. They will begin with a “soft launch” in June and then follow this schedule beginning in July:

Tuesdays on the corner of Brock Ave/Warren St. (near Tedeschi’s) 4:00-6:00 pm

Wednesdays at Carlos Pacheco Elementary School 3:30-5:30pm

Saturdays at Buttonwood Park Zoo, inside parking lot area 11:00-1:00pm

“We will also be doing Popup events such as festivals and fairs,” they write to me. “All produce will be sourced from local Southcoast farmers! There will be cooking demos on site throughout the month and health screenings as well. We do plan to expand to more locations in the future but are working out all of the logistics this year.”

Also, they have created Farm Share program, where you can order online for pick-up each Wednesday at Carlos Pacheco School, on Mt. Pleasant Street just north of Sawyer. Find details here.

Back at Clasky Common Farmers Market, you can feel a special vibe all its own developing.

It’s always had the fact that it is New Bedford’s most graceful park going for it. Now, Groundwork! is part of the neighborhood. An expansion of the Veterans Transition House is in the works, mid-way between the coworking facility and the market. There’s just more vitality – and interest – in the neighborhood.

Zekiah Lucas and his Yamaha.

Maybe that caught the eye – or rather, ear – of busker Zekiah Lucas. He arrived at the Common Clasky Farmers Market this past Saturday, new acoustic Yamaha in hand, and provided the soundtrack for the day.

He tells me that he plans to stop by about every other week at Clasky Common. (The enigmatic Lucas also makes appearances at the Brooklawn Park Farmers Market on Monday afternoons, as well as locations throughout the city, as the spirit moves.)

It’s a nice touch and adds to the already easy-going ambiance of Saturday mornings at Clasky Common.

Stop by and do some food shopping or just hang out in the park on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. every week to soak it all up.

New Bedford Now: Connecting to Grow

Maura Ramsey and Kristin McCullin filling the wagon with plants outside of Haskell Public Gardens on Shawmut Avenue, NB.

Last Thursday, June 7, GROW Education held its annual Community Garden planting at Carlos Pacheco Elementary School. It was one of many the program has done in recent weeks all around New Bedford.

Last week, too, the New Bedford outdoor Farmers Markets opened for the season. You’ll find them on Mondays at Brooklawn Park from 2:00-6:00 p.m.; Thursdays in Custom House Square Park also from 2:00-6:00 p.m.; and Saturdays at Clasky Common Park from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Yesterday, I happened to catch Maura Ramsey, Executive Director of Groundwork USA Southcoast (not affiliated with this Groundwork, the coworking facility) at Haskell Public Gardens. She was picking up some donated vegetable plants from Kristin McCullin, horticulturist at the park.

Groundwork USA Southcoast is planting the community gardens at Riverside Park in the city’s north end this year. The organization is based out of the Community Economic Development Center at 1285 Acushnet Avenue, and is part of the Love The Ave group, which is seeking to help revitalize the greater Acushnet Avenue neighborhood.

Maura told me that one of their interns, Irlanda Antunes is also working with Adam Davenport, who oversees the GROW Education gardens for the Marion Institute, which started the program with Zoe Hansen-DiBello. (Both Adam and Zoe are members of this Groundwork.)

Adam Davenport leads the planting at Carlos Pacheco School, Mt. Pleasant Street, NB.

At Saturday’s Clasky Common Farmers Market, newcomers Marisa Barone and Ian Nichols from Westport’s Backyard Garden were well aware of GROW Education’s gardens. Naturally, they love the concept. They would; they grow and sell holistically grown vegetables and herbs. New Bedford is a destination for their hard work due to the city’s growing embrace of local agriculture.

Kristin at Haskell Park has been growing vegetables there for several years now. Discovering her supporting Groundwork USA Southcoast’s efforts in Riverside Park wasn’t surprising; she, like all the people in this report, put their beliefs into practice.

A common bond is developing through all these efforts. It’s one that is very – no pun intended – organic. Local, sustainable agriculture initiatives across the city are finding each other to make common cause.

That’s intentional. Maura Ramsey says that the groups have been actively searching each other out to find ways to go further together by sharing knowledge and resources.

That not only strengthens each but also strengthens the whole – as well as the holistic.

Maura said on Monday that she was thinking of planting potatoes at Riverside Park, but was afraid it was too late in the season.

Not so, said Kristin and myself. Kristin knew from experience. I knew because I saw Davenport doing it at Pacheco School last week.

No doubt Irlanda Antunes will find that out interning for both Groundwork USA Southcoast and with GROW Education, and share the knowledge.

At this coworking facility, we love the concept and practice of collaboration.

And we like it even more when it occurs out in the wild, naturally.

  • The New Bedford Now weekly briefing is deep dive into news from the Groundwork! city desk featuring items of interest, select happenings, coworking member updates, substantiated rumors and good gossip in New Bedford, Massachusetts by Groundworker-At-Large, Steven Froias.

NEW BEDFORD SCENE/SEEN

Drawing on the Sacred Circle at Haskell Gardens – an Installation by Andy Moerlein; in collaboration with Master Horticulturist, Kristin McCullin; and Artist/Curator Jessica Bregoli.

On the Menu in New Bedford Now

This week’s New Bedford Now briefing hits close to home – because I’m happy to share the news that myself and Sarah Athanas, working together as Twin Fish, and in partnership with the New Bedford Economic Development Council, are launching the city’s first RESTAURANT WEEK this September, 2018.

The Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week will happen from Saturday, Sept. 15 through Friday, September 21. Pull up a chair, grab a fork, and come hungry.

Restaurant Weeks are a terrific vehicle to showcase a city or region’s unique cuisine – and as we all know, New Bedford’s diverse dishes are satisfying and savory. Renowned for fresh seafood, Portuguese and increasingly, Latin American flavor, the city is indeed Destination New Bedford when it comes to dining.

During a restaurant week, eateries break out the good china, so to speak. Specials, signature dishes and discounts define the seven days and thus the establishments. And, then the city.

New Bedford’s first Restaurant Week is centered on and around Acushnet Avenue for a reason. It’s genesis was in the Love The Ave committee, a community group dedicated to revitalizing the commercial corridor which I call New Bedford’s most relentlessly urban space.

So, to help promote Restaurant Week, the group will finally be getting something it has needed for some time – its own website, LoveTheAve.com. In the process of fostering business development with the Restaurant Week, the North End will then be left with a resource to showcase itself into the future, too.

This week, the site and first rush of publicity for the Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week get rolled out – and followers of Groundwork get the first look courtesy of this blog.

From now until mid-July, we’ll be lining up all the terrific bakeries, eateries and restaurants along Acushnet Avenue and throughout parts of the North End and then packaging them all together to publicize like crazy from later July through September.

You can read all about it soon on LoveTheAve.com.

Below is the first official Press Release for the event, going out to all media in the region this week.

Sarah and I, working from right here in Groundwork, hope you’re excited as we are to get a taste of what makes all of New Bedford tasty. Join us in the months ahead as we plot our course – make that three or four courses – up and down and all around Acushnet Avenue, New Bedford.

PRESS RELEASE:

Restaurant Week comes to Acushnet Avenue and North End in September

Pull up a chair, grab a fork, and come hungry.

The City of New Bedford’s first Restaurant Week launches this September, 2018. It will feature the diverse menus of what some regard as the city’s Restaurant Row.

That’s the commercial corridor Acushnet Avenue, the heart of the North End and affectionately called “The Ave” in the City of New Bedford. This vibrant space pulses from Coggeshall Street to Lunds Corner.

Additionally, eateries from Belleville Avenue to the east and Ashley Boulevard to the west will join in this special week of gastric delight from Saturday, September 15 through Friday, September 21, 2018.

It’s a week to showcase the culinary flavor of New Bedford’s North End,  home to some of the city’s most beloved bakeries, eateries, and restaurants.

From fine dining to casual noshing, Acushnet Avenue and the North End boast an impressive array of savory cultures: American, Chinese, French, Guatemalan, Peruvian, Portuguese, Mexican and Spanish dishes are all on the menu here.

During Restaurant Week, participating eateries can feature price fixe menus, promote special discounts, highlight signature dishes and offer entertainment. It’s their choice – and their moment to showcase their kitchens.

All of these special Restaurant Week happenings will be posted to the website, LoveTheAve.com, launched as part of this special event.

Restaurant Week is being organized by the content media firm, Twin Fish, LLC out of the Groundwork! coworking space in partnership with the New Bedford Economic Development Council (NBEDC) and the community group, Love The Ave – with enthusiastic support from Mayor Jon Mitchell’s office and various city departments.

The Love The Ave group, overseen by the NBEDC, the Department of Planning, Housing and Community Development and the  Community Economic Development Center (CEDC), located at 1285 Acushnet Avenue, is committed to revitalizing the area while empowering its diverse population.

“The Avenue’s many delicious dining spots are its greatest commercial and human asset,” says Steven Froias, a member of the Love The Ave community group. “They all bring distinction to this wonderfully funky, relentlessly urban space in New Bedford.”

Establishments that would like to participate in Restaurant Week can sign up directly LoveTheAve.com. There is no cost to participate. It is everyone’s wish that these terrific small businesses seize the opportunity to put North End dining on the Destination New Bedford map.

Eateries in the Restaurant Week area, along Acushnet Avenue from Coggeshall Street to Lunds Corner and from Ashley Boulevard to Belleville Avenue, can also contact Steven Froias and Sarah Athanas, the Twin Fish team, at NewBedfordNow@gmail.com with any questions. They will be reaching out to owners and managers between now and July 15, too.

After the full line-up has been created, Restaurant Week will be promoted through special blog posts to LoveTheAve.com, its Facebook page (Facebook.com/lovetheave), posters, postcards and advertising throughout the city and region.

Acushnet Avenue is New Bedford’s International Marketplace. In recognition of this, Twin Fish has designed LoveTheAve.com to be read in English, Portuguese and Spanish. It will read the settings on web browsers and switch between languages – or, you can click on the flag representing each at the top of the site.

Many of the cultures found around Acushnet Avenue and the North End are represented by their food and the places that serve it.

“A Restaurant Week is a great way to literally bring everyone to the table. It’s a meaningful economic development tool that is also culturally enriching,” says Angela Johnston, Director of Business Development for the NBEDC.

Mark your calendar now for the Love The Ave and North End Restaurant Week, Saturday, September 15 through Friday, September 21, 2017.

And remember to come hungry.