Amidst a fanfare of fife and drums, Gaspee Days Committee President Steve Miller, dressed in colonial garb, waved to parade spectators from the back of a convertible while sitting next to his wife, …
Amidst a fanfare of fife and drums, Gaspee Days Committee President Steve Miller, dressed in colonial garb, waved to parade spectators from the back of a convertible while sitting next to his wife, Tracey Saturday.
Miller recalled the first years of the Gaspee Day parade going by his childhood home. Between the ages of four and ten, he watched with excitement. Now, he’s closing out his second year as President and thirteenth year as a member of the Gaspee Days Committee.
“It was always a big event,” he said. “My parents always had a big party afterwards, so I was always interested in Gaspee Days in general for the festivities that went along with it.”
Steve, who has worked at Citizens Bank for 30 years, grew up in Warwick, attended Bishop Hendricken High School alongside his two brothers and attended URI for business finance. He met his wife Tracey while working at Old Stone Bank, and they hit it off. Tracey said her husband has only missed two Gaspee Days parades in his life.
“He’s been doing this his entire life, enjoying Gaspee, ever since he was very small,” Tracey Miller said. “So for him to be involved in Gaspee is not surprising at all. He just loves it. He loves the people. He loves the events.”
Steve said his daughter, Amanda, is the main reason why he joined the committee. He said she was always interested in history, so when she had to do a project in high school about a local historic event, he thought the Gaspee Day Committee was the best place to turn.
“She and I went to the meeting, she did her project and here I am 13 years later,” Steve added.
Steve said that his other daughter, Katie, has also been involved in the Gaspee Days celebrations, hosting the parade one year. He stuck around because he found such a great community.
“The people are amazing. I’ve made so many new friends from the committee, and everyone is just so friendly. It’s a very community-oriented group. Everybody is working towards the same goal.”
After a few years getting acclimated, Steve served as treasurer. He held the post for five years. He was then appointed second vice president, which he described as the unspoken succession plan for president. After serving in that position for two years, then first vice president for two years, he was elected president.
Steve a lot more preparation goes into planning Gaspee Days festivities than most would realize. The committee meets monthly starting in September to determine which members will fill each role, and the frequency of meetings increases closer to the event, with meetings twice a month in April, May and June. The president has the highest and most consistent commitment level throughout the year, to which his wife said that “his participation is 1000%.”
“He always goes above and beyond and he’s fully dedicated right up until the end,” Tracey said.
Erin Flynn, a board member with the Gaspee Days Committee, called Steve an awesome volunteer. “His leadership style is kind and encouraging and he and his family are dedicated volunteers. We’re very thankful.”
Miller said that it couldn’t be done without the help of countless “Gaspee elves.”
“They kind of come out of nowhere, and they’re there to help,” he said.
The committee’s annual budget is $200,000, $60,000 of which goes towards the parade or what Steve describes as the “culmination of everything.” A lot of the events are fundraisers, like the road race, arts and craft festival and the block party
The parade is his favorite part of the festivities. “We try to mix it up a little bit and try to do a couple of new things every year if we can. It’s always fun to see who’s at the parade that we’ve never seen before and old friends who have been in the parade for years and years.”
Throughout his tenure as president, Steve said he’s learned not to “sweat the small stuff.”
“There’s a lot of things that pop up and they can get frustrating,” Steve said.
Steve was president during the 250th anniversary of the burning of the Gaspee, which he described as “more complicated than normal.”
“It multiplied the amount of work that needed to be done,” Tracey recalled. “It was a crazy time. A lot of phone calls. A lot of working into new groups and making sure that everything was done correctly. It was definitely a lot of work, but it all got done somehow, some way.”
Flynn said that the Gaspee Days parade in 2022 was the first festivity with the Rhode Island Semiquincentennial (250th) Commission and consequently included a float on their behalf. She said they more or less “have a process” for planning the parade and other events, so it was a manageable workload.
Even when his term ends, Miller plans to follow the trend of past post-presidents and remain a dedicated member. For example, Steve and Tracey Miller have hosted the block party for 8 years, and Tracey said they “still have a couple years left.”
There are yet two more events to this year’s celebration that were postponed because of windy and raw weather on June 3. This Saturday the Symphony in the Park will be held from 5 to 8 followed at 9 by fireworks at Salter Grove.
Steve summed up his experience as president in two sentences: “It’s insane. It’s so much fun.”