It takes a village to make for a celebration

Posted 5/11/22

Surely you’ve heard the saying: “It takes a village to raise a child,” which Hillary Clinton made popular in her book “It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach …

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It takes a village to make for a celebration


Surely you’ve heard the saying: “It takes a village to raise a child,” which Hillary Clinton made popular in her book “It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us.”

That popped into mind Saturday when Carol told me kids dressed in colonial garb were outside the supermarket with collection cans. Carol said it all had to do with Gaspee Days. That seemed farfetched. I’ve encountered Boy and Girls Scouts as well as Little Leaguers dressed in their uniforms outside markets selling wreaths and cookies or simply looking for donations. I don’t recall ever coming across collections for Gaspee Days. Yet, why not?

Staging Gaspee days is an expensive enterprise. Just painting the red, white and blue stripe down Narragansett Parkway and into Broad Street in Cranston costs upwards of $5,000. At least that was the tab when Scott Avedisian was mayor and Allan Fung was at the helm in Cranston. $5,000 just to spiffy up the parade route seemed exorbitant on top of everything else that has to go into the parade.

But ingenuity is never lacking when it comes to raising funds for Gaspee Days. The two mayors were given a pair of challenges  - who could raise the most in donations – each dollar was a foot -  to paint the stripe and who could paint a 25-foot section of the stripe first. The painting duel had the two mayors clothed in white outfits looking as if they were about to enter Chernobyl standing back to back, paint rollers raised as the Pawtuxet Rangers did a count down before firing a volley. Allan hastily submerged his roller and with paint dripping placed it on the line and ran. Scott was more deliberative, working the roller back and forth to get a solid line. Scott covered about four feet before Allan stood triumphantly at the end of the line. But it was Scott who raised the most bucks that carried the Gaspee Days Committee across the finish line.

Over the years there’s been grumbling that the city should pay for painting the line. After all these are city streets. But the city is a partner although it’s not trumpeted. Proceeds from hotel and beverage taxes pay for the fireworks as well as for advertising. 

The biggest fund raiser for the committee is traditionally the three-day arts and crafts show. Proceeds from the show pay for most of the parade. Last year the parade was canceled because of the pandemic, however, restrictions were sufficiently lifted by the fall for a scaled down version of the arts and crafts show. That helped give the committee a jump in fundraising for this year’s parade marking the 250th anniversary of the burning of the Gaspee. The committee planned a February gala that would include auctions at Rhodes of the Pawtuxet to boost the kitty for a stupendous celebration. Tickets were sold and tables reserved, but then the newest variant threatened and the event canceled. Most of those purchasing tickets and tables generously donated the money rather than accepting a refund, making for a profitable non-gala.

Still getting it all to balance is proving difficult. Inflation – the fallout from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine – has thrown the committee a curveball. It was unclear Friday whether the Mummers who traditionally end the parade would be able to make it since the cost of busing the group here from Philadelphia has soared. Rising gas prices have likewise put the pinch on other groups.

By Sunday that Gaspee ingenuity had kicked in and Steve was planning an on-line version of items donated for the gala auction that he thinks could come up with $4,000.

So, naturally I was curious as to what kids in colonial attire were doing outside the supermarket. Carol had the answer in the form of a handout declaring “Come and Experience History”  and promoting the 19th walking tour of Pawtuxet to be held May 21 from 12:30 to 3 p.m. 

Students from Wyman Elementary and St. Peter Tri-Parish School assume roles of documented village residents of colonial Pawtuxet. Jailers, judges, ship builders and teachers are among the characters portrayed.  Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children 5 to 12.

And how might this all fit with the proverb?

It occurred to me that the children are, in fact, raising the village. Of course, it’s so much more than that. The Gaspee Days Committee, numbering 30 to 40 although no one has taken a precise count, is not only planning a grand party but raising the significance of the events of June 9, 1772 and how the burning of the Gaspee ignited the flames of independence.

This Side Up, editorial


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