Help us celebrate our 10th year!
In 2003, a grassroots group of fishermen, artists, folklorists, scientists, event planners and others got together to create an event which would educate the public and honor the men and women who work in the commercial fishing industry. The Working Waterfront Festival was born.
The free two-day festival takes place on the working docks of New Bedford’s historic waterfront, engaging diverse audiences through authentic, interactive programming.
Demonstrations & Contests of Occupational Skills including net mending, scallop shucking, fish filleting and survival suit races feature skills honed over generations. Vessel Tours allow visitors to learn about different types of work boats, talk with crew, see how the gear operates and get a sense of shipboard life. Guided Harbor Tours present a view of the port from the water. Performances of traditional maritime and ethnic music and dance as well as storytelling, theater and poetry take place on several stages throughout the Festival. The United States Coast Guard presents on-board tours of Coast Guard vessels. Whaleboat races and a tug boat muster take place on Saturday while the traditional Blessing of the Fleet takes place on Sunday afternoon. Members of the working waterfront community share personal experience stories and participate in facilitated discussions on topics such as Storms at Sea, Fishing Families and Unusual Catches. Nationally recognized authors read and sign their books and maritime artists exhibit and sell their work. The Dock-u-mentaries Film Area screens historic footage taken at sea and on shore as well as contemporary films about the working waterfront. The Foodways Area features galley cooks who demonstrate the challenges of preparing meals on board ship and fishermen’s wives who share family recipes. Informational Exhibits highlight the work of marine scientists and industry advocates.
Each year during the week before the festival, we present free in school performances of maritime and ethnic music, dance, poetry, and storytelling related to the fishing industry and the sea. Serving children from kindergarten through high school, the festival brings performing arts to the local schools at time when many schools are cutting such programs and limiting field trips. Local performers are joined by those who come from as far away as Alaska and Norway.
Over the years, we have expanded our efforts to present many year-round programs including a free monthly film series called Dock-u-mentaries, a free summer camp called Something Fishy, and a free monthly program series called Portholes which includes performances, cooking demonstrations, talks, walking tours, and occupational demonstrations. We also have an ongoing community documentation project, and have conducted over 100 interviews of fishermen, shore side workers, and others who work on the waterfront. This documentation has served as the basis to create curriculum materials, a radio series, and a book.
2013 marks our ten year anniversary and provides us with an opportunity to consider how commercial fishing and coastal communities have changed over the past ten years and what lies ahead. Festival programming will offer a retrospective look at the themes we have explored over the past decade: Sustainability; Safety; the Future of the Industry; Women in the Industry; Preservation of Ports; Fishermen & Farmers; the Cultural Mosaic of New England’s Working Ports; Tradition & Innovation; and Narrative Tradition.
We are dedicated to keeping the event and our year-round programs free of charge, but we need your help!