“Remember the days at the Rocky Point Palladium?” asked former Ward 5 Councilman Carlo Pisaturo from the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd in the corridor outside the grand ballroom of the Crowne Plaza.
Indeed, the turnout to the 2019 Inauguration Tuesday night at the hotel was reminiscent of the gala city inaugurations held at the Windjammer and Palladium before the park went into bankruptcy. The place was packed.
Organizers had seats for 550, but that was not enough, and even before the Pawtuxet Rangers Fife & Drum Corps prelude, additional rows were added. Still people lined the walls to watch the ceremony and its pageantry of a grand procession led by Police and Fire Color Guards and the singing of the National Anthem by retired Fire Captain William Tyler. Milan Azar, a cousin of Mayor Solomon, served as the master of ceremonies, Sharon Kathleen Santos-Leonard sang “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America,” and prayers were offered by Father Edward Nedder and Father Robert Marciano.
But Mayor Solomon added a dimension never offered in prior Warwick inaugurations. He brought “a taste of Warwick” to the celebration, and it wasn’t just clamcakes and chowder, either.
On relatively short notice, 11 Warwick restaurants, including Tavolo Wine Bar & Tuscan Grille, which has yet to open at the former Legal Seafood on Post Road, put together a spread to treat the pallets of hundreds. Estimates put the crowd at 700.
“They donated everything,” said Lauren Slocum, president and CEO of the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, of the restaurants. The chamber pulled the Taste of Warwick together. She said the chamber reached out to 75 restaurants, finding them all receptive to making the inaugural reception happen. Some, she said, were short of staff following the holidays, while others didn’t have the means to make it happen.
“We had great support,” she said. The chamber did the legwork when it came to the restaurants, ensuring a diversity of fare, and the proper assurances sought by the Crowne Plaza.
Slocum was a member of the inaugural committee that also put together the program and handled a multitude of tasks, including invitations, seating arrangements and the printing of programs. Others on the committee were Courtney Marciano, Joanne Cournoyer, Beverly Hall, Karen Jedson, Elizabeth Dunton and Lisa Andoscia.
Each member of the City Council contributed $200 toward the reception, with Mayor Solomon personally picking up the balance. No taxpayer dollars were spent on the event.
Slocum said Mayor Solomon wanted to “engage the community” in the inauguration, and that’s when his concept of the “taste of Warwick” emerged just before Christmas. Without much time and in the midst of the holiday season, putting it together was a scramble, but also, says Slocum, “a lot of fun.”
There’s no question the guests enjoyed it. Many carried small cups and plates of bite-sized samples of food. Others made a meal of it, carrying larger plates to a room with tables and chairs.
Restaurants contributing in addition to Tavolo were Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Harbor Lights Par & Tackle Tiki Bar, Iggy’s, Iron Works Tavern, Not Your Average Joe’s, Sam’s Inn, The Safehouse, The Trap, UNOS Pizzeria and Grill and Warwick Ice Cream.
As one of the organizers, Slocum said she “had to” taste all of the samplings. She started off with ice cream, had another bite halfway through and finished with ice cream.
“That’s the way to do it,” she said.