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International Festival back for 34th year

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 Every September since 1983, North Shore residents have enjoyed “the largest exhibition of culture on the North Shore” with Peabody’s International Festival.

Mary Bellavance, of Mayor Edward Bettencourt’s Office, said the festival was the brainchild of former Mayor Peter Torigian. “He was all about community programs,” she said. “It was just a way to showcase the different ethnicities we had here in the city.”

Bellavance said the festival was originally held in front of City Hall, until its ever-increasing size compelled organizers to move it to Main Street four years ago. “Main Street is actually much wider than Lowell Street,” said Bellavance.

The festival, which is host to approximately 80,000 each year, spans from Peabody Square to Washington Street.

She said Police Capt. Scott Richards will be in charge of public safety again this year. “In the 34 years we’ve run this festival, we’ve never had a problem,” she said.

The weekend-long events will begin on Sept. 9 at 9 a.m. with the Progeria International Race for Research. Race registration will open at 7:45 a.m. at the Leather City Common at 53 Lowell St. It will include both a two-mile run/walk and a 5k road race. “[It’s] a great course for the serious athlete, families and teams,” festival organizers said in a written statement. “Put your happy feet on and join us for the biggest and best road race in the city.”

The festival itself will then be held on Sept. 10 from noon to 6 p.m. Bellavance said there will be “60-65” booths this year, including vendors such as the United Polish Organization, the Portuguese Continental Union, the Knights of Columbus, and the NexMex Thing. She said a number of Main Street businesses will also be participating for the first time this year. In addition, a number of local artists will have their work on display at the International Festival Galleria on Foster Street.

Patrons can also enjoy live ethnic entertainment on both days. Although the final line up has not been confirmed, Bellavance said the event will open with Bona Recreativa Portuguesa as well as North Shore Acappella.

The festival will also include the Kid’s Day Celebration on the eastern end of Veterans Memorial Park at 45 Walnut St. That part of the festival will feature a magician, moon bounces, dance demonstrations, music and arts and crafts.

“It’s one of the proudest days in the City of Peabody,” said City Council President Joel Saslaw. “It really represents the melting pot that we are; it’s one big block party.”

Saslaw said his teenage sons also look forward to the festival every year. “It’s a legacy event; it’s a family-friendly event,” he said. “At the end of the day, what brings people together – food – the food is a huge part of it.”

Councillor-at-Large David Gravel said he enjoys the festival’s overall atmosphere. “As you walk down Main Street, you see your neighbors, your friends and everyone seems to have a big smile – it is truly a lot of fun,” he said.

Ward 4 Councillor Edward Charest said the festival appears to be growing once again after leveling off for a few years. “I see it going back up again,” he said. “I’m so glad we hang on to our traditions.”

Charest also said he is a big fan of the eclectic variety of food. “I usually eat my way through, I love it all,” he said.

By Christopher Roberson





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