The Portugal Day Festival in Newark is getting back to its roots this year, according to organizers who promise gone are the days of the wild booze-fest for which it's been previously known.
The world-renowned festival, which kicks off today on Ferry Street in the city's Ironbound, has undergone a metamorphosis - and change in organizers - and is now spread across a three-day family friendly celebration filled with cultural music, food and kids activities. The fest runs from noon until 11 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
"We're trying to change the way people perceive the whole affair," said Fernando Grilo, president of União de Clubes Luso-Americanos de NJ (UCLANJ).
Founded in 1980 by Bernardino Coutinho, and long-organized by his foundation, the festival had faced cash-flow woes stemming from new city ordinances in the years leading up to its eventual demise. Coutinho, the father of Assemblyman Alberto Coutinho (D-Essex), canceled Portugal Day in 2010 following a public spat with East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador over the festival's cost.
That's when UCLANJ stepped in – and when the direction of the festival went from being a money-making venture to a celebration of Portuguese culture again. and moved from Ferry Street into Independence Park, yet still attracted hundreds over its two days. This year, Grilo said anywhere from 150,000 to 250,000 people of all backgrounds are expected.
Only a select few restaurants will be serving alcohol and are required to cease distribution two hours before the festival's closing time each night. Underage and excessive drinking will not be tolerated, as it had been in the past, Grilo said.
"That was driving a lot of people away," he said.
Newark police are expected to beef up their presence at the festival, with Director Samuel DeMaio urging residents to "use common sense" this weekend. Drinking alcohol in public on city streets is prohibited and only allowed within the designated festival area. (See full list of festival policies below.)
"The Newark Police Department will be vigilant and will enforce all of our laws and ordinances this weekend to ensure that our residents and visitors have a safe and enjoyable Portuguese Festival," DeMaio said in a statement.
Families should look forward to good, clean fun (and plenty of ethnic food) at this year's festival, as well as performances by popular Portuguese pimba artist Quim Barreiros Friday night and shows by local artists throughout the weekend. All ages can partake in a 5K foot race Sunday at 8 a.m. with the Portuguese parade kicking off at 3 p.m., marching west on Ferry Street between Niagara Street and Penn Station. The grandstand will be located at the intersection of Ferry Street and Wilson Avenue.
Barreiros' live performance and Portugal-Germany football game can be publicly viewed via a giant screen near Peter Francisco Park at Edison Place and Ferry Street, said Grilo.
"I think people are starting to believe that we are bringing it back to our roots," he added.
to see pictures from the Portuguese Parade.
PORTUGAL DAY FESTIVAL POLICIES
- Glass bottles and containers are prohibited. Street vendors selling alcohol are prohibited from dispensing alcoholic beverages in glass bottles or containers.
- All ordinances and laws governing open containers will be enforced.
- Large flags, banners, sticks, poles, or other obstructions shall not be allowed in the festival with the exception of those of organized performing groups or those persons participating in the parade or processions.
- Bicycles are not allowed within the festival area.
- The general public shall not be allowed to carry large coolers into the festival area.
- Dogs shall not be walked within the festival area. Small dogs that can easily be carried will be permitted. Exotic animals and pets (e.g.: snakes, lizards, etc.) are prohibited in the festival area due to the general public’s sensitivity and emotional reaction to such animals. Persons with such pets shall be directed to leave the festival.
- The consumption of alcohol shall NOT be permitted in city streets; this excludes consumption within licensed establishments.
- Festivities conclude at 11 p.m. on Friday, June 8, Saturday, June 9, and Sunday, June 10. Alcohol sales must cease two hours before the closing time.
- NO public drinking outside designated festival area.
- NO alcohol-stuffed backpacks; liquor stores and alcohol vendors shall NOT dispense liquor into any backpacks.
- Vendors and restaurant owners who dump cooking oil into streets, sewers, sidewalks, or storm drains will be charged with unlawful disposal of hazardous waste.
ROAD CLOSURES IN NEWARK THIS WEEKEND
Closed from Friday, June 8 at noon until Sunday, June 10 at 11 p.m.:
- Ferry Street, from New Jersey Railroad Avenue to Union Street
- Edison Place, from McCarter Highway to Ferry Street (Note that taxicabs will be allowed on to Alling Street to access Penn Station)
- McWhorter Street from Ferry Street to Hamilton Street
- Bruen Street from Ferry Street to Hamilton Street
Closed Sunday, June 10 between 7 and 11 a.m. and from 1 to 5 p.m.:
- Ferry Street between Niagara Street and Penn Station, during the foot race and parade