WaterFire turns 25 this year, and while Providence’s premier cultural phenomenon hasn’t lost any of its glow over the course of a quarter century, it’s not the only big event lighting up the city this summer. Practically every weekend between June and September is packed with festivals, including newer stars like PVDFest and FringePVD, a big menu full of foodie events, and soirees celebrating the gay community, ethnic pride, and the first blow for freedom against the British crown.
“Providence is a great festival city in part because of its walkability,” says Kathleen Pletcher, founder of FirstWorks, which partners with the City of Providence to host PVDFest. Now in its fifth year, PVDFest 2019 has an expanded four-day lineup that includes a deeper program of speakers and more “spectaculars” than ever, including three days of performances by eVenti Verticali, a high-wire Italian performance troupe that plays against the backdrop of a giant video screen.
“Providence is a wonderful canvas for festivals, and each year we raise the bar,” Kathleen says. So while you’re busy making summer plans, make sure at least some of these great Providence events are on your to-do list:
The 2019 Hope Street Block Party promises to be a little weird, but hey, that’s Providence, right? In addition to sidewalk sales, live music, food trucks, and a raw bar stocked by Matunuck Oyster Bar, the organizers promise live “pro wrestling,” break dancers, and ponies. Count on deals from Hope Street merchants like Frog & Toad and Stock, as well as munchies from Seven Stars Bakery, Pizzico, and Chez Pascal.
Artists are taking over Providence again for four days in June as the immersive PVDFest brings public art installations along with live music, dance performances, and food from the city’s culinary-arts masters to parks and other public spaces. Co-sponsored by the City and FirstWorks, this year’s PVDFest will include an exhibit of Pakistani truck art, a pretzel-eating contest, a parade, and a bike tour through the city’s neighborhoods.
The burning of the HMS Gaspee in 1772 was one of the acts of rebellion leading up to the American War for Independence, and the annual Gaspee Days festival in Pawtuxet spotlights a triumphant parade featuring colonial militia groups in full regalia, a road race, and the ceremonial torching of a miniature Gaspee replica. Take that, King George!
The Day of Portugal commemorates the death of famed Portuguese poet Luís Vaz de Camões, known for his penned tribute to the golden age of Portugal’s seafaring exploration. In Providence, the holiday is marked by a two-day festival incorporated into PVDFest, with a torch procession and activities honoring Portuguese heritage.
Siena, Pane e Vino, Caserta, Massimo, and many of our other favorite restaurants set out a sidewalk spread for participants during the Federal Hill Stroll, a three-hour movable feast that lets you indulge in Providence’s great cuisine (don’t forget dessert at Scialo Bros. Bakery) and walk it off at the same time.
An illuminated night parade winding through the streets of Providence and before a reviewing stand at PPAC will be the bedazzled culmination to the 2019 PrideFest, a celebration of the city’s LGBT community that includes a day-long festival/party on South Water Street, drag queens strutting across stages, carnival rides and a Kids Zone, and related events throughout the weekend.
It’s unclear if man can live on bacon and beer alone, but for one day in June, this indulgent pairing can be fully satiated at Bacon & Beer Fest RI 2019. Held on the grounds of the Cranston Print Works building, the festival will feature samplings of 25 bacon dishes paired with an equal number of craft beers – all “curated” by the organizers of the popular Beervana Fest and RI Food Fights.
Swap golf balls for meatballs during the tastier side of the CVS Health Charity Classic golf tournament, which kicks off with the two-day Crave RI food festival at the Dunk. Food and drink are teed up by more than 100 restaurants like The Chapel Grille and La Creperie, plus more than 150 beer, wine, and liquor producers; the event includes demonstrations by top local chefs, as well.
Maybe it’s the shared southern roots, but BBQ and blues music harmonize perfectly even among us Northerners. This two-day festival will feature music from bands like Slam Allen and Professor Harp, plus barbecued ribs, pulled pork, and all of those delicious sides like cornbread, mac and cheese, and collard greens. (Non-BBQ fixin’s will be available, too.)
“Paws” for a good cause at Roger Williams Park Zoo’s annual Zoobilee bash, which last year raised more than $250,000 through ticket sales and an online auction. The adults-only Feast with the Beasts includes food tastings, wine and beer bottle bazaar, music and dancing to the sounds of the World Premier Band, and socializing with some of the zoo’s animal inhabitants.
The Cape Verdean community is near and dear to Rhode Island, and the annual Independence Day Festival transforms India Point Park into an interactive cultural experience of the Cape Verde Islands. It’s also the oldest Cape Verdean heritage celebration in the country, featuring traditional music, dance, food, and themed tents, plus arts and crafts.
Each year we say a silent prayer that Siena will put their bolognese tagliatelle on their Restaurant Week menu; this two-week culinary celebration is a great opportunity to revisit some old favorites at discount prices, or give new dishes and restaurants a try. In addition to perennial favorites like Capital Grille and Gracie’s, the new Skyline restaurant is among more than 100 eateries offering fixed-price, three-course lunches for $16.95 and three-course dinners for $29.95 or $34.95.
AS220 is taking a break from staging its annual, all-day Foo Fest in 2019, and instead will bring 20 of its best Foo Fest bands to its Main Stage and Black Box Theater for a sonic fundraiser. The community arts group also will sponsor a week-long Queer Arts Fest from June 9-15.
Seems appropriate that this summer’s
FringePVD festival – a celebration of edgy performance art and local culture – will be held on the fringes of downtown Providence. Most performances will be held in the Olneyville neighborhood, including onstage at The Wilbury Theatre Group, at Sprout CoWorking space at Rising Sun Mills, Riffraff Bookstore and Bar, WaterFire Arts Center, and Donigian Park, which will host the main festival tent and beer garden.
Providence, a.k.a. “the birthplace of weird” and also of macabre author H.P. Lovecraft, will host a conference devoted to Lovecraftian fiction featuring a goulash of festivities, art, and academic presentations from scholars, artists, and historians. The three-day NecronomiCon – named for Lovecraft’s book of magic – is sponsored by Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council, a Providence-based nonprofit.
India Point Park will channel its waterfront
location into the Rhode Island Seafood Festival, which will be awash with lobster rolls, chowder, clam cakes, and other fresh seafood from local restaurants. Live music and kid-friendly entertainment will be on the menu, as well.