Johnston man serves as Gaspee Days Parade Grand Marshal


When Ron Barnes was a high school student at Cranston East, he marched in the Gaspee Day Parade as a member of the band. Since then, he has marched in the parade almost every year as a member of the Pawtuxet Rangers, a militia group that was chartered in 1774 “to protect the thriving seaport of Pawtuxet, and at various times throughout the Revolutionary War manned the fort on Pawtuxet Neck, a function vital to the defense of both Pawtuxet and Providence.”

For the past 18 years Barnes, currently a Johnston resident, has been the commander of the Rangers and this year will be the grand marshal for the Gaspee Days Parade, Saturday, June 11.

“At first I was really speechless and then I said absolutely I would do it,” said Barnes. “It's a big year I couldn’t say no.”

Barnes, a Johnston resident, joins the ranks of those who led the parade including gold medal Olympian Sara DeCosta, media personalities including Walter “Salty” Brine and Channel 10 Anchorman Gene Valicenti and philanthropists like Alan Shawn Feinstein.

Since joining the Rangers 35 years ago, Barnes has only missed the parade three times, twice to attend his sons’ high school graduations and once because he had chicken pox.

“Marching down the parkway with however many thousands of people watching the parade… is a sense of pride. The Rangers represent Pawtuxet Village,” said Barnes.

Barnes, who has a passion for history, said that one of the things he likes most about the parade is that it sticks to its colonial roots.

“The Gaspee Days Committee always makes sure the tradition of colonials is a big focus of the parade,” said Barnes. “They really remember the roots of the parade.”

Tina Bingham, Chair of the parade chose Barnes as marshal because he has been involved for many years, in fact she remembered when he assumed command of the Rangers in 2004.

“He seemed like a good choice and a good fit,” she said.

In 2020 when the parade was canceled due to the covid-19 pandemic Barnes said that the Rangers wearing masks visited the Gaspee Point overlook, the cemetery in Pawtuxet Village, and Trinity Church for abbreviated ceremonies at each location which was broadcast on Facebook.

“We observed it in our own private way,” said Barnes.

When the Rangers marched last year in the parade Barnes said it was special.

“‘I think a lot of us got the chills marching down the Parkway,” said Barnes.

This being the 250th anniversary of the burning promises to be even more special.


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