TIMES file photo/Ernest A. Brown
PAWTUCKET â€” From toddlers and teens to seniors and everyone in between, there's simply no excuse to be bored in the coming days with the 2013 Pawtucket Arts Festival lineup. The festivities get under way tonight with the Blackstone River Party and Taste of the Valley in and around Slater Mill on Roosevelt Avenue from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
For an admission fee of $10 (children under 12 are free), area restaurants will provide a wide choice of food and dessert samplings. Under a tent across the street, the Slippery Sneakers Zydeco Band will perform, along with the Louisiana Zydeco Band, and Andre Thierry and Zydeco Magic, offering up foot-stomping music for dancing or just enjoying.
â€śIn 15 years of organizing the Pawtucket Arts Festival, I promise this will be the one festival you wonâ€™t want to miss,â€ť said John Baxter, chairman of the festival committee. â€śEverything is ready. And we're expecting fantastic weather during the first weekend. There should be a great turnout, not just from our community but throughout Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.â€ť
Baxter also noted how the majority of festival events can be enjoyed free of charge and that those that do charge an admission have kept it at an affordable $10. â€śIt's exciting. There is so much activity going on in that downtown area,â€ť he said.
In addition to keeping the festival's cost down for patrons, Baxter said it has been the mission of the organizers to showcase local talent as much as possible. â€śThere is so much great talent here, not just in Pawtucket but throughout the state...in the arts, music, culinary areas,â€ť said Baxter. â€śWe want to promote that. I equate it with the world traveler who hasn't toured his or her own country. We don't even realize what we have in the way of excellent, homegrown artists and performers.â€ť
The next day, Saturday, Sept. 7, is jam-packed with events, starting with the 14th annual Rhode Island Chinese Dragon Boat Races and Taiwan Day Festival. The competitive races and accompanying cultural festival, featuring Chinese music and dancing, crafts, and food, take place at Festival Pier off School Street from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (rain date Sept. 9). Admission is free.
Over at the Armory Arts Center, 172 Exchange St., the Arts Marketplace will feature a dazzling array of fine art and handcrafted items by over 50 professional artists from throughout New England. This exhibition and sale, which continues on Sunday, Sept. 8, will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be music, steamroller printmaking demonstrations by the Ink Monkeys, and food truck vendors parked outside.
Running concurrently with the Arts Marketplace on both Saturday and Sunday is the XOS Exchange Street Open Studios. It's a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of some 60 artists at work as they open the doors to their studios at 10 Exchange Court, 163 Exchange Ct., 59 Blackstone Ave., and 65 Blackstone Ave.
Stationed in the middle of all of these cultural events is the city's first food trucks festival, â€śFood Trucks on the Blackstone,â€ť sponsored by the Rotary Club of Pawtucket. Vendors offering a wide variety of gastronomical delights will be lined up along Roosevelt Avenue, as well as near the Armory on Exchange Street, throughout Saturday and Sunday. A beverage tent offering beer, wine, soft drinks and water, will also be available on Roosevelt Avenue.
Also taking place on Saturday is the new In-Ovation Festival at Slater Mill. Musicians, artists and performers who have found exciting new ways to present traditional art forms will be showcased from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Among the diverse line-up are the Duke Robillard Jazz trio, the Maui Nighthawks, the Eastern Medicine Singers and many more. Admission is free.
Across the city, the Forget-Me-Not Gallery, located in an elegant 19th century house at 67 Park Place, hosts its own Unforgettable September Music Festival from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. The art gallery, which supports the mission of the Samaritans of Rhode Island, will feature Molly's Adventure and Guests. Admission is free but seating is limited so reservations are suggested by calling 401-721-5220.
Saturday, Sept. 7 also features an evening performance of â€śPirates of Penzanceâ€ť by the Woloohojian Family. Opera Providence brings show, billed as a comic opera in two acts, to the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center theater from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. General admission is $10, or $25 for VIP admission, which includes a pre-show reception.
Capping off the Saturday night fun is First Lights: the Pawtucket River Bridge Lighting, which is taking place at Taft Street and Roosevelt Avenue Extension from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. A huge block party featuring a DJ, more food trucks and refreshments, including beer from Doherty's, will be available to celebrate the inaugural lighting of the new Interstate 95 highway bridge. A colorful light show is promised when the sun goes down, at approximately 7 p.m.
On Sunday, Sept. 8, Slater Mill will bring back its annual Labor and Ethnic Heritage Festival on its grounds by the Blackstone River from noon to 5 p.m. This is one of Rhode Island's longest running folk music and heritage arts festivals and is a fan favorite. Performers include members of Magnolia, the Greg Abate Quartet, Zimmerman, and more. Admission is free.
Later in the week, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, the cultural vibe continues as the award-winning Gamm Theatre offers a free performance of two, one-act plays, â€śA Numberâ€ť and â€śFar Away,â€ť by British playwright Caryl Churchill. Showtime is 8 p.m. Ticket vouchers are available in-person at the Gamm Theatre box office, 172 Exchange St., starting Monday, Sept. 9 (box office open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Limit two tickets per guest.
Fore more information, visit www.pawtucketartsfestival.org.