By JOHN HOWELL
and EMMA BARTLETT
It’s official: Gaspee Days are here.
And this being the 250th anniversary of the burning of the Gaspee, this year’s celebration is of special significance, even the Brits are taking notice. Peter Abbott, the British general counsel in Boston, who was here earlier this month for the announcement that funds have been raised for the search for the schooner, plans to return for the parade on June 11 at the invitation of Warwick/Cranston Rep. Joseph McNamara. McNamara said Abbott plans to march with him in the parade. It’s hardly the first time that visitors from across “the pond” have attended the parade or been recognized by the Gaspee Days Committee. Three years ago descendants of William Dudingston, of Scotland and captain of the Gaspee, were welcomed by the committee and Dr. John Concannon.
To start it all off this year the Pawtuxet Rangers in their red woolen uniforms led the way Saturday to the gazebo at Pawtuxet Park, marching past more than three dozen elementary school students in colonial attire. Following the declarations and the proclamations, it was the kids who put on the opening performance marking this year the anniversary of the burning of the HMS Gaspee as she was fast aground on Namquid Point off Warwick. The students largely from Wyman and St. Peter Schools played the roles of Pawtuxet residents from the 1700s including merchants, judges, jail keepers, grave digger, boat builders and yes, even students.
The walking tour offered an insight to village life in colonial times and history on the houses on the way. Parents and friends were there to help along the way, providing snacks and plenty of water. They were also the fan club, congratulating the kids on their performances and laughing at the appropriate times.
The walking tour included destinations such as the James and Malachi Rhodes house, Pawtuxet School, H.L. Johnson house, William Rhodes mansion, Greene cemetery, Carder Tavern and Pawtuxet Armory.
As Rep. Joseph McNamara, who served as master of ceremonies warned, it was Cranston’s turn to read the longest of the proclamations. Mayor Ken Hopkins set the stage to the incident and how the captain of the Gaspee, William Dudingston was despised for stopping vessels and extracting a share of what they were carrying; How the colonial ship the Hannah lured the Gaspee over the shoals on an ebbing time and then how that evening on June 9, 1772, John Brown of Providence rallied an estimated 60 men who rowed long boats out to the Gaspee under cover of darkness to set her ablaze.
The incident has been coined “the first blow for freedom” in a series of incidents leading up to the declaration of independence and the Revolutionary War.
“The burning of the British navy schooner Gaspee is an event that is unique in Rhode Island history as it is officially recognized by the British as the very first overt act of treason and considered an act of war,” said Hopkins.
Hopkins recognized the Gaspee Days committee’s efforts, saying these individuals were committed to preserving the memory of this event “so that we do not forget the crucial role that Rhode Island played in the American Revolution.”
McNamara also shared that the tour had individuals representing Native Americans that participated in the Gaspee affair. He said the youngest person who partook in the event was an indentured servant who was African American and Native American. He had been rowing to Bristol when a couple of long boats came across the bay and said they needed him to help. He put down the anchor and joined the crew; he was one of the individuals who rowed Gaspee Lt. William Dudingston,l who had been shot, to Stillhouse Cove to get medical assistance.
Mayor Frank Picozzi deferred reading Warwick’s proclamation. He said that not until he was mayor did he learn of the work that goes into staging all of the Gaspee events and how much fun the whole experience can be.
“Last year, I had the privilege of being involved as the mayor and I saw the dedication and passion of all the volunteers and how much everyone enjoyed it. And boy, I get it now. And I will never miss another Gaspee event in my life,” said Picozzi.
He commended Gaspee Days Committee chair Steve Miller and those who have put it all together.
Upcoming events during Memorial Day Weekend include the arts and crafts festival on Narragansett Parkway in Warwick which will take place from May 28 to May 30. On the 28th and 29th, the festival will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On the 30th, the festival will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There will also be a Gaspee Days block party on May 28 in Pawtuxet Park which will go from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Individuals must be 21+ to enter and proof of age will be required. For this event, Salters Groove, RI Bucket Drummers and Neal and the Vipers will provide the music.
Celebrations continue Saturday, June 4 from 5 to 8 p.m. with the Symphony on the Park followed at 9 p.m. with fireworks at Salter’s Grove. The following Saturday, June 11opens with an ecumenical serice at Trinity Episcopal Church for 8 to 9:30 a.m.; the 5K foot race at 9:30 a.m.and the Gaspee Days Parade that steps off at 10 a.m. Meanwhile, there will be a colonial encampment that Saturday and Sunday at Pawtuxet Park.
On Sunday starting at 11 a.m. there will be a blessing of the fleet at Rhode Island Yacht Club; music in Pawtuxet Park from noon until 4 p.m. and the burning of the Gaspee at 3 p.m.
Yet, there could be somewhat of an encore to all that is Gaspee this year.
Thanks to the efforts of a local group, more than $35,000 has been raised to hunt for the remains of the Gaspee. Investigator Dr. Kathy Abbass of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology, who has identified 10 pre-revolutionary war in Rhode Island waters will be coordinating the search starting in July.
Schedule of Events
Memorial Day Weekend Arts and Crafts Festival
Saturday May 28th - 10 am to 5 pm
Come enjoy a day outside where shopping, eating, music and friends are all brought together in one place! The Gaspee Days Arts & Crafts Festival is a free, fun, and family-friendly experience that showcases over 100 fine artisans, community groups, and non-profits where you will find one-of-a-kind arts and delicious craft fair eats. Over the course of three days, Pawtuxet Park fills with live music by our hand-picked local bands while children enjoy the many amusements available. Over 60,000 people will walk up and down Narragansett Parkway on Memorial Day Weekend, enjoying the atmosphere of this long-time tradition.
Music each day 1 – 4 pm by:
Gaspee Days Arts & Crafts Block Party Fundraiser
Come join us for a night of drinks, music, and neighborhood fun! Admission is limited to individuals 21 years of age and older. IDs will be checked at the gate and police will be in attendance. Admission and drink tickets may be purchased with cash or credit Coolers, pets, and children are prohibited at this event.
Warwick Symphony Concert and Fireworks
Join us for an evening in the park with music, fireworks. Our Symphony in the Park showcases The Warwick Symphony Orchestra as they perform a carefully curated collection of musical masterpieces. At the end of the night, the event culminates with a spectacular display of fireworks set off in Salter’s Grove but visible throughout all of Pawtuxet Village! We encourage you to bring a chair or blanket to make yourself comfortable. The fireworks begin at 9:00 pm and are graciously provided by the City of Warwick.
Ecumenical Service Saturday
Gaspee Days Committee kicks off our largest celebration day with a solemn, non-denominational gathering at Trinity Church and take just a few moments to honor all the things that have allowed us to turn Gaspee Days into what it is today.
Gaspee Days 5K Foot Race
Race the parade and run along the famed red, white, and blue parkway. There is a strict time limit for this event as the parade directly follows the race.
Start Time: 9:30am EDT
Gaspee Days Parade – 250th Anniversary
The Gaspee Days Committee will celebrate Rhode Island’s 250th revolutionary history of Rhode Islander’s burning of the HMS Gaspee in Narragansett Bay with our annual parade. Combining colonial groups from all over with our modern and vibrant community, this is truly a show not to miss! Each year, friends, and neighbors crowd along a two-mile stretch of Narragansett Parkway anxiously awaiting the march of the parade. Be it the fife and drums corps, the fire trucks, or the Shriners in their miniature cars, everyone has a favorite to look forward to!
Come immerse yourself in the colonial atmosphere or our encampment and gain a feeling of what life was like in the 1700s. Throughout Gaspee Days Parade weekend and during Sunday in the Park, a collection of historical militias will be camped out in authentic revolutionary style – no plumbing, no electricity, and no cell phones! This Gaspee Days featurette is brought to you in collaboration with the Pawtuxet Rangers, RIM, our local, all-volunteer historical militia.
Blessing of the Fleet
Bring your boat to the waters off the RI Yacht Club to get blessed and participate in the Gaspee Days parade of boats! Even if you don’t have a boat, all are welcome to come watch the event from the Rhode Island Yacht Club lawn.
Sunday in the Park
Come enjoy a beautiful day in the park while we wrap up Gaspee Days with live music performances, colonial maneuvers, and the famed reenactment of the burning of the HMS Gaspee! All day long, you can enjoy activities including children’s games, our Annual Gaspee Days Raffle drawing, and watch the cannon go off and burn down our Gaspee silhouette. Join in as the Blackstone Valley Amateur Radio Club attempts to reach out to the world with the story of the Gaspee burning.
Music by: The Eclipse: 12:30-3:30 pm
Burning of the HMS Gaspee
Join us in the celebration of Gaspee Days, we reenact the event that started it all with a symbolic burning of the ship that sparked the American Revolution – come celebrate it with us! The event begins promptly at 4 pm
The Gaspee Days Committee is a civic-minded nonprofit organization that operates many community events in and around Pawtuxet Village, including the famous Gaspee Days Parade each June. These events are all designed to commemorate the burning of the hated British revenue schooner, HMS Gaspee, by Rhode Island patriots in 1772 as America’s First Blow for Freedom
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