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Chiferobes and fire juggling made for an AHA! experience

Torch Photo — Shannon KennellyIf you've never heard of New Bedford's free entertainment-stravaganza AHA! Night, you're probably some kind of shut-in or performer of the black arts.

Every second Thursday of the month, Downtown New Bedford hosts a number of different free events at the various museums, science centers and art galleries in town as part of an ongoing effort to engage the public in the Arts, History and Architecture (as well as music, local interest, science, conservation and more).

Every month boasts a different theme under which the events operate. This February's theme was “Carnevale!” and was suitably bizarre.

As usual there was an abundance of interesting new art shows, including several new exhibits at the New Bedford Art Museum such as paintings by David Smith, Susanna Coffey and Finn Gudmunddson and a Gloria Swain exhibit at the Colo Colo Gallery.

Even the New Bedford Library has an exhibit by Life Love Lens Photography and the Midwinter's Night Dream exhibit over at Gallery X.

Of course, there's also the new exhibit at UMass Dartmouth’s very own Star Store. There's an overwhelming amount of fresh new art and it's all too awesome to describe!

So make sure you get yourself to Downtown New Bedford sometime this month and absorb all the inspiration, skill, imagery and artistry you possibly can!

For the sit down and learn types, there was, as always, a healthy selection of lectures and talks.    The Whaling Museum, a personal favorite for educational subjects, hosted a lecture by James Russell on his experiences as a native of Ireland as well as a photo exhibit called “Tides of Change”.   You could also bump that noise and play around on the world's largest ship model or get caught making out with your significant other in the life-like replica whale-ship bunks!

Down at the Historical Park, there was an illuminating discussion about the famed Schooner Ernestina's dubious condition as well as an entertaining song in her honor, sung by Angel Diaz and Jordan Andrade of Brick by Brick.

Or go on down to the Ocean Explorium and learn a thing or two about real, live, cute fish and the ocean environment (and don't learn a damn thing about Antarctica, apparently)!

The most unique part of the night, dedicated to the Carnivale theme, were the open-street fire performers.

With no safety barriers except for some electrical candles marking the boundaries, this incredibly talented duo flipped flaming batons in the air mere feet away from the audience- at times you could literally feel the heat on your face.

There were flaming ball-and-chains, fire-juggling and even a flaming hula-hoop of death! When it comes to tossing fire around like a harmless pool toy, these guys were completely impressive and endlessly entertaining.

Another real stand-out show was the small Chifferobe being performed at The Pour Farm.

A chifferobe is, besides a kind of cabinet, a kind of variety show originally popularized in the twenties.

If you know anything about the twenties, you know the entertainment was decidedly questionable- as was this modern pub chifferobe.

The show started with a rendition of “Fever” sung by the lovely Miss Wednesday- a woman with a powerful and refreshingly classic voice. She was accompanied by a skilled accordionist and three lovely backup dancers.

Making a surprise appearance was 00Bananas, a mysterious and sexy secret agent stripping...gorilla man. Combined with a saucy puppet show, lovely cabaret dancers (The TropiGals) and even a vintage, racy burlesque show by Legs L'Amour dressed up as a Wonderland Card Soldier, this show was a bizarre and incredibly amusing callback to the ages when entertaining required a long lost trait once called talent.

This show also worked beautifully with the delicious free beer samples provided by Pretty Things Brewery.

You can combine all of these awesome goings-on with the exceedingly high-quality foodstuffs around the Downtown area- like Ginger Grill, No Problemos, Destination Soups, The Green Bean and more!

If you play your cards right and show up early, you can even score some delectable wine on the cheap-as-free. Just be sure to be polite, clean and at least pretend to be interested in whoever is serving the snacks.

So there you have it- do you even have a good reason to not visit AHA! Night now? Burlesque, beer and things on fire- after reading that, you're officially not allowed to call New Bedford boring.

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