Labor Day Weekend in Southern Rhode Island means two things – Rhythm and Roots! The renowned R&R Festival (August 30-September 1) returns to Charlestown’s Ninigret Park with some of the best in American roots music, which finds its origins in folk, blues, and country.
The Festival, now in its 22nd year, is produced locally (a rarity in the music business) by South County resident Chuck Wentworth. R&R is known for its down-to-earth, family-friendly atmosphere, and Chuck explains that he enjoys “producing an event that brings together people of all ages and backgrounds from all over the country to celebrate a weekend of music, dancing, and joyful community.”
Indeed, that happens on four busy stages all weekend long.
Main Stage a.k.a the Rhythm Stage
Headliners cover a range of music from traditional blues to Americana. Main Stage performers this year include alt-country band Son Volt, Smithfield native and Nashville recording artist Sarah Potenza, the Tex-Mex inspired Mavericks, and blues piano great Marcia Ball.
The dance stage is the destination for many attendees, attracting dancers from over 38 states and Canada. The emphasis is on Louisiana Cajun and Zydeco music, and featured bands include BeauSoleil, Los Texmanics, and Hot Club of Cowtown. Don’t miss the “locals,” Westerly’s Knickerbocker All-Stars, whose latest album has been nominated for a Blues Music Award.
The festival remains true to its origins with musicians who keep the roots alive. Rhode Island native Johnny Nicholas, a bluesman who’s spent most of his life in Texas, joins traditional Cajun fiddler David Greely as “Artists in Residence” all weekend. Main stage acts like Della Mae and SNL veteran Christine Ohlman often visit the Roots Stage for sets of stripped-down tunes.
Children of all ages will stay busy with activities including kid’s musicians, storytellers, and movies under the stars. In addition to the dedicated kid’s tent, the Cajun Academy is a free youth music camp that offers lessons on traditional instruments like accordion and mandolin. The camp is open to local families, including those not attending the festival.
Parking is free and easy on the decommissioned Navy airstrip. Camping fills up each year, and “glamping” options are available.