Fountaingate 2018

Ah, Rhode Island. We’re unique. We don’t eat hot dogs, we eat Olneyville Weiners (without ketchup). We don’t drink milkshakes, we drink cabinets. We can drive anywhere in the state in an hour, and consider a 20-minute ride a mini road trip. And we like it that way — we aren’t ones to embrace change. So it was to no surprise to me when the social media backlash over the Federal Hill fountain took over my Facebook feed for a couple of days.

I first found out about the broken fountain through Ben DeCastro’s video. The fountain outside Venda Ravioli was broken, and filled in with plants that I can only describe as either borrowed from the depths of City Hall or the clearance section of Home Depot. DeCastro, a local freelance social media influencer, is no stranger to making hit videos. He has the popular “Car Pooling with Ben” series, and spent 15 years working with Cardi’s Furniture. As Ben simply states, “It’s a fun little world,” and these videos are a glimpse into his fun little world. What started out as something fun quickly grew to show some issues at the heart of this matter.

“First I wasn’t going to do the video, thought it was a nothing story, then I saw online people asking, ‘Why didn’t they tell us?’” DeCastro heard about the fountain in the morning, and by dinnertime, the video was making its way around Facebook.

Another RI funnyman was making his way around Facebook over the same fountain. Mike Murray, co-owner of Funny 4 Funds, posted the story with the caption that he would donate a show to help pay for the fountain to be fixed. Funny 4 Funds has raised $3.8 million since its inception, and after 650 fundraisers, they are no joke when it comes to raising money.

“I’m from Providence, I’ve lived in Providence most of my life until I got married, I used to be on the hill every day. I saw the transformation, spent time at the fountain. I have so many friends and family from around there. As soon as I saw [the broken fountain], I knew I’d donate a show.”

The social media outrage was enough to get the flowers removed within 24 hours, and now the fountain has a partial flow to it. It’s nice that in this day and age, when social media can be so vicious that it could collectively laugh and find a solution. Things break, and as DeCastro pointed out “Don’t hide it. We own vehicles; when they break we don’t just put these flowers in them.” And although we’ve reached a (partial) solution this time, one can only hope that next time something breaks in Providence, we don’t try to mask the stench with potted plants.

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