Dance, Drive or Run to Misquamicut for Some Summer Magic

Misquamicut is a bit of a mystery to many Rhode Islanders. Sure, we’re among the rarified few who have a shot at pronouncing it correctly, but its beachfront allure seems to draw people from exotic, far away New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, while Rhode Islanders at some point “discover” this local treasure.

A beachfront community, Misquamicut is a bit like those you see in some movies: A small but distinctive cast of year-round locals with eccentric personalities and intimate local knowledge who keep everything going are supplemented by regular visitors who enjoy a few weeks of kick-back-and-chill and assume their week of visiting is the one perfect week at their beachy Brigadoon/Star’s Hollow/Camp Kellerman’s/pick your pop-cultural reference.

If you’re looking to have the Key West experience without the airfare, a summer stop at Misquamicut could be what you’re looking for. Enough beach comers go to give it that resort experience feel, but it’s still small enough to feel homey and have some character. The president of the local business association is someone you’ll rarely catch wearing anything other than flip-flips and a Hawaiian shirt. The voice on the radio is usually “The Wolf.” The drive-in is quasi-homemade, but has the summer hits of last year through yester year, and the weekly classic car show is Rhode Island style, with lots of cars and few pronounced r’s.

If you duck your head down to this strip of beach this year, here are a few of the activities you might take part in:

Dance on the beach!

Every Monday and Wednesday night from July 10 through August 16, you’ll find music and dancing taking over the old Westerly Town Beach for Tunes on the Dunes, where you can dance the night away, or just relax and tap your toes.

Tunes on the Dunes is composed of two separate concert series — Monday Night Jams, which has a classic rock and roll vibe, and Blues on the Beach, which frees your soul on Wednesday nights. The music is for the whole family, and has been known to inspire 80 year olds and 6 year olds to dance together with all sorts of family in between.

The season kicks off with Cinnamon Sky, a spicy tribute to Marshall Tucker, as the first Monday Night Jam. Green Tea, Fastball (known for singles “The Way,” and “Out of my Head,”) Denny Laine (of the Moody Blues/Wings), and Terry Sylvester (of The Hollies) performing with The Cryers will all be bringing their tunes. Another highlight will be the locally legendary David Tessier Band on July 24, and the season will close out with an Allman Brothers tribute, Brothers of the Road.

The Blues series kicks off on July 12 with Bobby Christina and Friends. Johnny Nicholas, Jeff Pitchell and Texas Flood (performing with James Montgomery); the Willie J. Laws Band will keep things as blue as the ocean sky through August; and the venerable, internationally known Duke Robillard Band will take to the sand August 9. The season will round out with Victor Wainwright and the Wild Roots.

Mon and Wed, Jul 10 – Aug 16 on Westerly Town Beach, 6 – 8pm. Tunesonthedunesri.com

Run for the beach!

If you’re active – or would like to be – there’s a Tom McCoy Family Fun Run every Wednesday from June 8 – August 24. It starts at the Pleasant View Inn (65 Atlantic Ave). Registration is at 5:30, with running from 6pm until you finish (or at least catch whomever you’re chasing). Most of the prizes are kid-oriented. Under 16s who take part regularly for 5 weeks or more can win trophies, and top children get their names in the Westerly Sun. But it’s also a fun way for grown-ups to make friends and run into new people.

Every Wed at 5:30pm, 65 Atlantic Ave. For more info, visit westerlytrackclub.org.

Drive to the beach!

If classic cars are your thing, there’s a weekly gathering that’s become famous over the years for the size and quality of its weekly turnout – especially considering some of these vehicles get about 5 miles per gallon, so taking them for a spin requires a financial planner. Cruise Nights have been picked up by “Doc,” a gregarious car lover and DJ, who is stepping into the shoes of beloved local “Big John” Hodis, who unexpectedly passed away last November. This season is dedicated to the memory of Big John, by all involved. “We’re always gonna set aside a few minutes every Cruise Night to remember John. He put a lot into it,” say Doc.

And that homage will take place with about 80 cars – from the classic to modern muscle cars that are now joining the parkingpalooza. “I always call this event ‘stepping back in time,’ taking a look at what the vehicles looked like in the ’30s and ’40s, then their evolution through hot rods to the cars of today. The hobby is bigger than ever,” say Doc. Music, trophies and giveaways will take place – along with car talk for the aficionado or the uninitiated. “There’s no bigger prize than when someone asks questions,” Doc advises. “There are no dumb questions – we love talking to people about these cars.”

Cruise Nights pull in to the Atlantic Beach Park every Thurs evening in Jul and Aug.

Then drive to the movies!

After the car show, you can scoot right over to the Drive-In, pretty much across the street. Movies start at sunset, with a local sizzle reel kicking things off.

The Misquamicut Drive-in has a family backyard-party feel to it. “You might see the same people there every week, or during the second week of August, you might find that person who’s always there the second week of August on an annual vacation,” says MBA Executive Director Caswell Cooke. Adding to the cozy atmosphere is an old-fashioned popcorn machine and Coke served from those curvy little glass bottles.

The whole experience is also very DIY. The projector is affixed to the back of a vehicle, with two DVD players magically hot-wired to it. And not much beats the wonder of seeing a classic film extend upward into a starry night sky (it particularly fits ET and the opening of Jaws, two perennial favorites).

The Misquamicut Tourist Center is located at 316 Atlantic Ave. Films are every Thurs and Fri thru the end of Aug, and continue every Fri thru Oct.

Beach magic!

Before you disappear back to the real world, you can watch all sorts of things disappear in Larry and David’s Magic Show. The family-friendly show features old and brand new illusions and misdirection every year. “There’s always something for the kids, and there’s always audience participation,” Larry (Stangel) promises. And this year, there’s air conditioning!

“We’re at the Windjammer in the event room, where we’ve always been. But this year, that space will have AC. It may not sound like much, but when the heat is sweltering, there are actually a lot of tricks you can’t do for one reason or another,” says Larry. Just being able to wear a sport coat — for a magician, that opens a whole new realm of possibilities.

Or just chill!

A lot of attractions are just there at the beach all season long – beach side drink service from several hotels and bars; amusement park rides and bumper cars (teach your kids to drive like a Rhode Islander early!); water slides; and of course, that soft, sandy beach, with soothing waves, just the right amount of percolating marine life, and that timeless smell of sun-kissed ocean.

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