41. There are people who do brave but stupid things, and then there are people who do brave but stupid things for a good reason. Those crazy kids who jump into the freezing ocean on New Year’s Day definitely fall into the latter category. At North Kingstown Town Beach they call themselves Polar Bear Plungers (and raise money for the West Bay Family YMCA). In Jamestown, they’re Penguin Plungers raising money for the Rhode Island Special Olympics. Whatever you call them this year, make sure to hand them a hot cup of coffee as you do it.
42. For one magical weekend in July, the sky fills with floating, colorful art. The South County Hot Air Balloon Festival takes you high above the ground for what is unquestionably the most visually pleasing event in an area full of great festivals. When you come back to earth, feast at the event’s new Rhode Island State BBQ Championship, which launched this summer.
43. One of the best things about South County is our wide open spaces. It feels like living in the country, without actually having to cross the Mason-Dixon Line or drive an hour to the closest town. The Washington County Fair has been celebrating the best of our agricultural traditions for almost 50 years. Think tractor pull, arts and crafts, prize-winning pigs and deliciously country foods.
45. We always hate to see summer come to an end, but we love the way Charlestown ends it on a high note. Every Labor Day weekend, thousands of lovers of Cajun, blues and zydeco music head to the Rhythm and Roots Festival in Ninigret Park. This year’s celebration even includes a performance from Hugh Laurie of House.
46. Superman can leap tall buildings in a single bound – but after an afternoon at the Rhode Island Air Show, you might start thinking that members of the National Guard can do it, too. For over 20 years, crowds have flocked to the Quonset State Airport to see local hot shots show off astonishing aerial tricks – like, you know, a little thing called breaking the sound barrier.
47. Baseball players have their pre-game rituals, but so do sailors. The Blessing of the Fleet, which happens every July in Narragansett, is arguably the most important one. The weekend kicks off with a road race with nearly 3,000 participants, then is followed by a seafood festival known to attract as many as 30,000 patrons. It all leads up to the actual blessing, asking for divine protection over the parade of hundreds of ships that turn out for the event.
48. Rhode Islanders know their seafood – and it all goes on display at the Charlestown Seafood Festival, three days of stuffing yourself to the gills (if you’ll pardon the expression) with the best local seafood. Then, when you can’t eat any more, there are bands, arts and crafts, kids entertainment, and rides… though come to think of it, you might want to do the rides first.
49. Normally, boating is a very serious thing. There are safety concerns, boat maintenance and clever names to be carefully considered. Every August, though, Jamestown cuts loose with the Jamestown Yacht Club’s Fool’s Rules Regatta, which gives participants two hours to construct some kind of “sailing vessel” from non-maritime items. You’re a winner if you can get your bathtub or barrel to sail the 500 yards to the finish line – but really, sailing in a giant rubber duck is the ultimate prize.
50. In Southern Rhode Island, we’re luck to have so many art festivals to enjoy. They both give small local artists a chance to display their work, and give visitors a glimpse into the surprisingly thriving local art scene. The granddaddy of them all is the Wickford Art Festival, which celebrated its 50th year this past summer. Blocks upon blocks of vendors line downtown Wickford; we’re pretty sure it’s a certifiable fact that no patron has ever left empty handed.
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