Narragansett Bay lighthouses. Colonial Newport. Roger Williams Park Zoo and Carousel. Sons of Liberty Distillery. The Wickford Art Festival.
These are just a few of the Rhode Island sites and events visited by the 23 members of the Proudfoot family, who traveled to Warwick for their annual family reunion.
Coming from six different states and one foreign country, the family stayed in Warwick at the Holiday Inn Express for their weeklong reunion from July 14 to July 20. North Kingstown resident Ken Proudfoot, the oldest of the six siblings, played host for the reunion along with his wife, Ann Marie.
The family that has held reunions since 1998 is truly spread out all over the country with members in Rhode Island, New York, West Virginia, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. One Proudfoot brother, Mark, even lives part-time in Denmark.
“It’s really great to see them for one week each year,” said Jeanette Altavela, one of Ken’s sisters.
Although Ken said the only requirement his father, Noel Proudfoot of Greenville, N.C., had was for the family to stay at a Holiday Inn Express, Ken knew that Warwick was the place to stay.
“It’s the center of the state. It’s right near the airport, there’s a shuttle from the airport to the hotel so they didn’t have to rent a car,” said Ken, adding that because of it’s location, Warwick was the ideal hub because his family could go everywhere in the state easily.
And the family, a few of whom were visiting the Ocean State for the first time, certainly enjoyed seeing the sites.
As a group, they attended a Newport Gulls baseball game and went on a boat tour of Narragansett Bay to see the lighthouses. That tour was a favorite among many of the family members.
Cindy Proudfoot, Ken’s sister-in-law, said she also loved the chance to see the history in Old Newport.
“It’s lovely,” said Cindy about the state. She was one of the family members visiting for the first time.
The family also had a great time exploring Roger Williams Park in Cranston. They went to the park with the intention of seeing the botanical gardens, but to their surprise, the gardens are closed on Mondays. So they split off to explore other parts of the park, and according to David Proudfoot, they never found each other again.
David took the time for a “horse race” on the carousel with his parents, both of whom are in their 80s but made sure to get themselves up on a carousel horse. He said his mother, Henrietta, won the race.
“She got ahead and stayed ahead,” joked David.
While the Proudfoots explored many different areas throughout the state, they also took advantage of time in Warwick. Ken explained that several of his siblings had dinner at the Crow’s Nest, picked up supplies at local stores like Dave’s, and even spent time shopping in the Warwick Mall.
On a less happy note, one of Ken’s nieces took advantage of Warwick’s medical attention, visiting a walk-in clinic to be treated for poison ivy she picked up at Ken’s North Kingstown home.
Altavela said her favorite part of any family reunion, regardless of location, is breakfast at the hotel.
“Everyone shows up even if they aren’t staying at the hotel,” she said, adding that the breakfasts can last up to three hours. “You just show up and you always find someone from your family.”
And it’s not just family that shows up for the early morning event. Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian stopped by the Proudfoot family’s breakfast on July 16 to welcome the family to the city and present them with a citation.
“It was a pleasure to be able to see all the members of the Proudfoot family while they were here for their family reunion. I had an opportunity to share some time with them to talk about the history of the city, the great coastline and shoreline that we have, and to welcome them to this great community,” said Avedisian.
The mayor is glad that the Proudfoots decided to spend time in the city for their reunion and hopes more families follow suit.
“Having events like this is one of the reasons that we have some of the highest occupancy rates in the state and the region, and encouraging more events like this fosters the economy and creates new jobs,” said Avedisian. “Warwick has the right mix of activities needed to entertain a family reunion, so we encourage others to follow the Proudfoot family.”
More quality family time was on the menu on the evening of July 17 when Ken and Ann Marie hosted a “Hot Dog Throwdown” cookout at their house for the family. Ann Marie’s side of the family also attended, as well as some neighbors.
“It is National Hot Dog Day today,” added Ann Marie, making the night’s theme even more appropriate.
For the Hot Dog Throwdown, Ken asked family members to bring their state’s famed hot dogs. Ken provided Rhode Island’s famous Saugy’s.
Altavela explained that she brought along Zweigle’s White Hots, a popular bratwurst from Rochester, N.Y. There were also Hummel’s hot dogs from New Haven, Conn., and a spicy sausage from Pennsylvania that no one could seem to remember the name of.
Also, no one knew just how many hot dogs the family had been able to gather, but they had purchased 160 hot dogs rolls for the crowd of almost 60.
“The main idea is hanging out with family,” said Ken, who added that in today’s world, he sees much less of the quality family time he experienced as a kid. “We need to encourage stuff like this. I’ve known this all my life. This is what we do.”
Ken loved having the opportunity to promote his state to his family. He knew his family members planned to continue to explore the state for the rest of their stay, and many hoped to take advantage of the beaches during the beautiful weather.