Friendly duel starts race to fund Gaspee stripe
Cranston Mayor Allan Fung defeated Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian during Thursday’s duel, but if contributions since then are any indication, the “real” race is far from decided.
The mayors partook in a ceremonial duel with paint rollers to kick-off fundraising efforts to repaint the street line identifying the Gaspee Days parade route. The Gaspee Days Committee needs to raise the $5,000 to repaint the stripe, and as of Monday they were $3,290 of reaching the goal. When making a donation, supporters will choose to donate on behalf of Avedisian and Warwick or Fung and Cranston. Whichever city has the most money donated in their name will receive bragging rights for the 2013 Gaspee Days celebration in June.
Enjoying the chance to participate in a light-hearted event, Avedisian and Fung gladly put on white painter’s jumpsuits and blue plastic booties and proudly marched out of O’Rourke’s on Narragansett Parkway, ready to defend their city.
Mark Russell, a member of the Gaspee Days committee that served as the master of ceremonies, said he approached the Warwick Beacon asking if they could help raise the funds to paint the strip and the idea of the duel grew from there.
He also did some research on duels telling the audience Thursday that they were used to settle political differences or differences discovered after a night at the local tavern.
Russell added that duels would normally occur at dawn, but the mayors chose to forgo that historical fact, meeting at a chilly 9 a.m. instead.
The Pawtuxet Rangers were also on hand to ensure the duel was handled with historic accuracy. Col. Ron Barnes read a proclamation before the duel and fired a pistol to start the duel.
As for the rules, the mayors stood back to back at the crosswalk, walked 10 feet forward to their respective paint trays and loaded their weapons – 4-inch paint rollers. Following the pistol shot, the mayors were to paint their respective portions of the stripe with white paint. Whoever reached the crosswalk first would be declared the “Rangers Painter.”
“It was great,” said Barnes, following the completion of the event. “I love being a part of Gaspee Days. It is so important here in Rhode Island.”
As the mayors took their starting positions, Barnes prepared to fire the historic pistol; it misfired on the first attempt.
“That happens sometimes,” joked Barnes.
Upon a second attempt, the pistol went off, causing most spectators to jump, and the mayors began their race.
Avedisian and Fung would not reveal their battle strategies prior to the duel, but it was evident to the crowd that the two had very different approaches.
While Avedisian took his time to make sure the white stripe was completely filled in and straight, Fung chose to run his roller down the 10-foot stretch in one swoop. Going over the stripe only three times, sprinting the distance, Fung was standing on the crosswalk waiting for Avedisian faster than most spectators realized.
Fung completed his side so quickly that he decided to help complete the Warwick side of the line too.
“I think Mayor Avedisian was paying attention to detail, while Mayor Fung was trying to get it done the fastest. Somewhere in the middle is the key,” said Barnes, who joked that although Fung would now be the Rangers’ official painter, he would not be called on for work anytime soon.
Spectators on both sides were laughing and cheering on the mayors throughout the short competition. One spectator even joked that Avedisian’s side had too many potholes causing him to need more time.
In addition to members of the Rangers and Gaspee Days committee, a parade veteran took the time to attend.
“I toed the line,” said former Ward 1 Councilman Gerald Goldstein, who led the parade for 20 years.
“The suit still fits you know,” said Goldstein, showing a picture of him wearing a white ensemble to lead the parade. “I thought about wearing it today.”
Both mayors were in good spirits following their friendly duel.
“It feels good,” said Fung on his victory. “But both of our communities are winners here today.”
Avedisian was gracious in defeat, citing the classic moral “slow and steady wins the race.”
“In the long run, it does,” said Avedisian with a smile.
And he may just win this fundraising race. As of Monday afternoon, Warwick and Avedisian were ahead, $1,452 to Cranston and Fung’s $285.
In addition to the duel, the campaign was launched with an ad in last week’s Warwick Beacon and Cranston Herald papers; the publications will provide updated totals each week.
Donations will be accepted up to June 8 on the Gaspee Days website or by check. Checks can be mailed to the Gaspee Days Committee at P.O. Box 1772, Pilgrim Station, Warwick, RI 02888-8883, or to the Beacon offices at 1944 Warwick Ave, Warwick, RI 02889.