The Gaspee Days Committee is working to keep its brand alive throughout the year, and its first-ever fall event on Oct. 12 is the first step to achieving that goal.
The Gaspee Fall-Out — the brainchild of committee president Gina Dooley and past president Ryan Giviens — will take place between noon and 5 p.m. at Pawtuxet Park the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend. Organizer Karen Kenney, Dooley and Giviens discussed the history, intent and details of the gathering during an interview at the Beacon Communications office on Monday afternoon.
Kenney said local breweries Proclamation and Sons of Liberty have agreed to host a beer tasting, while the Grub Guru and Sarcastic Sweets will be among the vendors offering meals and desserts. SandSharks and Donnie and Kelley will be providing entertainment along the water, and those performers have agreed to play for free.
Also, as Kenney and Dooley emphasized, admission is free and people of all ages are welcome.
“It’s more like our way of giving back to the community and thanking them, because they do contribute a lot,” Kenney said. “The whole Pawtuxet Village area, Cranston, Warwick, they give a lot to us. It is a lot, and this is our way of giving back and keeping the momentum going into Christmas, into the spring, because all that’s going to be here before you know it.”
Kenney volunteered to run the event, as she previously did with the restoration of the Gaspee silhouette after it suffered severe damage two years ago. It was Kenney who connected with The Steel Yard to repair the structure last year, and the proceeds from the Fall-Out will go toward the second phase of that project.
However, it leaves the door open for the Fall-Out to sustain other initiatives in future years.
“Whatever money we make is going to be for that restoration process, but next year it might be for something else, and the year after that it might be for something else,” Dooley said. “So that’s basically the genesis of it, and that’s one of the reasons we decided to go with it.”
The Fall-Out has generated significant social media traction as well. As of press time, more than 1,600 people expressed their interest via Facebook and more than 100 confirmed they would be attending.
Despite those figures, Dooley said the committee went in tempering its expectations by keeping vendors to a minimum and declining to charge admission.
“Well, we’re trying to keep this one a little on the low-key side, because we don’t want to be overwhelmed and have it be a big bust,” Dooley said. “It’s going to be from noon to 5, we opted not to do anything into the evening. We think it’ll be a lot of fun.”
The Fall-Out will act as a sort of beta test for the group, as Dooley said its success could provide a baseline for planning further events leading up to the 250th anniversary of the burning of the Gaspee in 2022.
“We’ve got two years to start planning that, and this event is another reason why we decided to go with it this year, we’d have two years to iron out the wrinkles so for the 250th anniversary it could be something bigger,” Dooley said.
She said there have other ideas, albeit premature ones, such as a kayak regatta starting at the Pawtuxet Athletic Club. That proposal has not even been floated to the committee yet, though, so the Fall-Out could be a strong barometer for how future events would be received.
“If this is good in the fall, maybe we will do something in January, not this year, but maybe next year we’ll do something in January or February,” Dooley said. “But to keep our brand out there for the entire year would be a much better thing that just isolating a six-week period.”
Giviens said it’s very important to keep the Gaspee name alive throughout the year, pointing to its signage and name recognition throughout the village.
“We’re a staple to the community, so you see our logo on the street signs when you drive through Pawtuxet Village,” Giviens said. “You have ‘Welcome to Pawtuxet Village’ signs, three locations, with our logo on them. Gaspee’s a prominent name in the area, and it’s important that we keep it relevant.”
Then, of course, there’s the controversy surrounding the Gaspee’s place in history books. Warwick and Cranston Rep. Joseph McNamara quipped recently that the reason the Boston Tea Party - which took place 18 months after the burning of the Gaspee - is seen as the first revolutionary event is because textbooks are printed in Boston.
Not only did the trio agree with that assessment, but they want to continue bringing to light Rhode Island’s place in the fight for independence.
“Really, it should be in history books,” Kenney said. “It really should be, because all the facts and details that we have from all the talks that we’ve listened to and all the data and history shows our forefathers were no one to mess around with, and that’s how we became the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. They all went rogue, and you can quote me on that.”