Ferry Street was once again adorned in red, green, and yellow with blaring traditional music as people crowded the streets lined with roughly 50 vendors selling everything from barbecued foods to soccer jerseys to celebrate the annual Portugal Day festival in the Ironbound. Newark celebrate Portuguese culture by eating traditional food, playing music, socializing and watching the parade in Newark now in its 34th year
This weekend, the festival and celebration is held annually in Newark Ironbound, the actual festivities started on Friday and ended Sunday afternoon. Portugal Day has been celebrated on June 10th in Portugal since 1933 when the government decided to honor the death of one of the country’s great literary icons, Luís Vaz de Camões. After the Revolution of the Carnations in 1974, the day became known as the Day of Portugal. The Portugal Day Festival in New Jersey was first organized by Bernardino Coutinho in 1980 and held as an annual event until 2009, canceled in 2010 due to budget issues and revived a year later. Although officially observed only in Portugal, Portuguese citizens and emigrants throughout the world celebrate this holiday. The city of Newark puts on the Portugal Day Festival every year during the weekend closest to June 10th.
The Portugal Day Festival in Newark, New Jersey is a street festival celebrating the Portuguese people, language, and their culture. First organized in 1979 by the Bernardino Coutinho Foundation, since 2010 the Festival has been organized by the Union of Portuguese American Clubs of New Jersey (União de Clubes Luso-Americanos de New Jersey), or UCLANJ. The festival, is an event attended by all Newarkers and diverse community enjoying the festivities,
“I love that (Portugal Day) gets everyone together, and it is a family affair where people can have clean fun,” said Fernando Grilo, president of the Union of Portuguese American Clubs of New Jersey and the festival’s organizer for the past four years. Grilo said the festival was downsized a few years ago, but he still expects around 150,000 to 250,000 people throughout the weekend.
Joe Rizzolo, a 38-year old North Arlington resident, made a last-minute decision with friends to visit the festival and grab a bite to eat. This is his first time attending Portugal Day in the past few years.
“I love Portuguese food and I’m not even Portuguese, I’m Italian,” said Rizzolo, who was born and raised in Newark.
One worker for Sport Newark & Benfica, a local sports club, said patrons waited for more than an hour for sardines, a traditional food from Portugal sold at almost every vendor. Diogo Marques, 25, believes Sport Newark & Benfica does well because their food is “fresh.”
“The club has been at Portugal Day for more than 30 years, but it’s my first time here,” Marques said. “The team that they have and the organization is awesome.”
In addition to all the food vendors, there is also a variety of musical performances embracing different styles of Portuguese music, there were four stages set-up through out Ferry St. The music included traditional folk groups and DJs, european styles rock music, and up tempo contemary style music played.
People from Newark schools, the Essex County and Newark Police Department and Portuguese organizations marched down Ferry Street waving Portuguese and American flags, and about 60 organizations and vendors set up tents around Peter Francisco Park.
The parade and festival, organized by the Union of Luso American Clubs for the last five years, is “the largest Portuguese event in the world,” according to George Marques, a Union member.
Marques said the festivities bring Portuguese people together from all over the country who are looking to meet others in their culture and enjoy food and wine imported from their home country. He said the event is very family-oriented.
“Everyone who is looking for a taste from home generally comes here for it,” Marques said.
Banda Nossa Senhora De Fatima was one of many bands marching in the parade. Matos, who was selling traditional Portuguese sausages, sardines, a tripe stew called dobrada, and feijoada — a stew made of beans, beef and pork — in one of the tents said she enjoys the socializing most.
“My favorite thing is that people who aren’t of the culture, they come and ask about our culture and try our food,” Matos said. “And they love it and tell other people about it.”
The sound of traditional Portuguese music and the mouthwatering smell of barbecue makes it easy to believe you’ve somehow made it to Lisbon or perhaps south to the small town of Albufeira on Portugal’s Algarve coast. In fact, it’s the annual transformation undergone by Newark, New Jersey, during the Portugal Day Festival. From its early beginnings as a somewhat rowdy celebration of cultural heritage to today’s more family oriented parades and daytime festivities, this festival is a point of pride for the city’s Portuguese-American residents.
The festival is all about family fun in a safe environment where a limited number of vendors are allowed to sell alcohol. Though there are events like photo exhibitions and hand-painted ceramic exhibits throughout the week of the 10th, , the stage comes alive with bands representing the sounds of Portugal both past and present. In 2012, entertainers included popular Portuguese folklore singer Quim Barreiros and Portuguese pop star Jorge Ferreira.
Traditional foods, such as sardines, blood sausages and roast chicken, and drinks like sangria and Portuguese beer keep the crowds happy while enjoying the bands or wandering through the stalls at the Saturday sidewalk sale. Some festival goers attend the affair dressed in traditional clothing worn by their ancestors. On Sunday morning, athletic events like the annual 5k race and the kiddie dash kick off the last day of the celebration. The festival culminates in a grand parade featuring floats from all over New Jersey on Sunday afternoon. The event ended around 4.p.m, when the street were reopened, but party goers continued to celebrate until the evening hours.