Rhode Island has a unique place in the nation’s history, with a legacy as an early bastion of religious freedom and the distinction of being the first of the 13 American colonies to formally renounce British rule.
We celebrate that heritage in several ways, including through the Independent Man who stands atop the State House dome. Locally, the annual Gaspee Days celebrations also serve as a chance to honor our past and the Ocean State’s role in the creation of the nation.
It was in June 1772 that a group of Rhode Islanders raided and burned the HMS Gaspee, a British vessel sent to enforce the crown’s maritime policy and hated for its harassment of local ships. Royal authorities were unsuccessful in their attempts to apprehend those involved. Despite a substantial reward offered by the king, the colonists kept their secret.
The Gaspee Affair became a rallying point for American colonists, one of the events around which a simmering revolutionary spirit coalesced. Today, the annual festivities held in its honor provide a chance for us to gather with family, friends and neighbors.
Gaspee Days is in its 49th year, and organizers are already working toward next year’s milestone 50th anniversary. We applaud the Gaspee Days Committee for all its efforts, and the many volunteers who make the annual events possible for their time and dedication.
“We couldn’t do it without our volunteers,” said Erin Flynn, president of the committee. “They’re the lifeblood of our organization … I always think that we don’t thank our volunteers enough.”
It is important to note that the committee is always seeking new volunteers, and that those wishing to contribute can do so in a variety of ways. Those seeking more information can visit www.gaspee.com or call 781-1772.
This year’s events kicked off over the Memorial Day weekend with the Arts & Crafts Festival and Block Party. The celebrations continue this month with Gaspee Days weekend.
A colonial encampment will be held from the night of Friday, June 13 through the morning of Sunday, June 15, at Pawtuxet Park on Narragansett Parkway in Warwick. Also on the night of the 13th will be the Gaspee Days Fireworks Extravaganza, beginning at dusk – around 9 p.m. – at Salters Grove Park on Narragansett Parkway.
An ecumenical service will be held at 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 14 at Trinity Episcopal Church, located at 139 Ocean Ave. in Cranston. That day will also include the Allan & Edna Brown 5K Road Race, which begins at 9:45 a.m. on Broad Street in Cranston.
The 49th Gaspee Days Parade, starting on Narragansett Parkway and moving onto Broad Street, begins at 10 a.m. on the 14th, providing one of the highlights of the annual events. That night, from 5:30 to midnight, the Gaspee Project at WaterFire in Providence will highlight Gaspee history.
Sunday in the Park will be held from noon to 2 p.m. on June 15, with music, food and colonial life demonstrations at Pawtuxet Park. The day will also include the Gaspee Days Raffle drawing. At 4 p.m., the celebrations conclude with the burning of the Gaspee at the park’s cove.
Whether it is to volunteer or simply to celebrate alongside others in the community, check out this year’s Gaspee Days events. Our state’s history and unique spirit are well worth celebrating.