Fill Your Weekends with Festivals

Kingston Chamber Music FestivalwebSun’s out, festival’s out. In Li’l Rhody, there’s always something to do outside, and this time of year that means festivals. Big, medium, small, we like ‘em all. Here’s a quick rundown on some of our favorite ones to check out:

The British are coming! Once if by land, twice if by sea, or … maybe by car? The British Motorcar Festival opens to the public on a Friday night, when roughly 80 classic British vehicles will be tooling about Colt State Park (watch out – they may not all stay on the correct side of the road). Saturday will further the excitement with contests for best vehicle, best British attire, and a ladies hat contest among many others. A perfect occasion to channel your inner Bond. Jun 8 -9.

Kick off your foray into summer food fests with the Bacon and Beer Fest, a new idea that has grown with remarkable speed. Held at the Steel Yard, which can probably hold millions of people, this is half beerfest, half celebration of porcine goodies, and all tasty. Their creative pairings should definitely have you oinking for more. The Steel Yard, 27 Sims Ave, PVD, Jun 10. 

If you really — and we mean really — like ice cream, RI Food Fights’ Incredible Ice Cream Throwdown is the place to be. Featuring sample after sample of sweet creamy delights — from plain ol’ vanilla to some pretty crazy concoctions — this Sunday afternoon ice cream fest is quite a treat. Wash it all down with Yacht Club Soda and New Harvest Coffee Roasters’ iced coffee while you vote for your fave. Jun 15. 150 E Manning St, PVD. Advance ticket purchase recommended. 

Whether you have a sweet tooth or a sweet spot for wine, the Coastal Wine Trail has you covered with their annual Wine, Cheese and Chocolate tour, which will have something for every taste bud and a blitz on 14 New England wineries. Jun 16 and 17.

For more food-centered fare, Crave RI promises to be one of the biggest food-oriented events all year, kicking off CVS’ annual Charity Classic. The Dunkin Donut Center (there will be donuts too), PVD. Jun 21 -22. See separate article on page XXX.

India Point BBQ and Blues Fest returns to the PVD waterfront to help you feel like you’re in the south, with two days of music and lots of ribbing. Jun 23 – 24.

If you’re from RI you know about the Bristol 4th of July Parade. Purportedly the longest running (er – marching) parade celebrating our independence from monarchy in the country, you likely either flock early to stake out a spot on the route and enjoy the spectacle, or you hightail it in the opposite direction to avoid traffic and crowd-based trauma. This year features not only a parade along brightly colored medians, but also a carnival, performance of Cinderella and many related events throughout Bristol. Jul 4.

Wickford Art Festival: This local creative favorite returns with a vengeance! More than 200 artists display their work for you to admire and purchase if you like (tax free, of course). For 56 years, the town of Wickford has hosted this outdoor event celebrating fine art, and boasts a juried selection from over 200 artists — from near and from around the world. Painting, photography, sculpture, fiber and almost any meduium you can imagine is represented. 36 Beach St, North Kingstown. Jul 7 – 8.

Heritagefest in East Providence will offer visitors a wide range of local music, anchored by Kiss and Beatles tribute bands and featuring many Motif music award winners as well as Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Terry Sylvester, Katie Kleyla, David Tessier All-Star Stars and many more. Food, an art show curated by HeARTs fieldspot Gallery and more entertainment will keep East Providence hopping all weekend. Pierce Field, 201 Mercer St, East Providence. Jul 13 – 15.

South County Balloon Festival: Up, up, and awaaaay! Balloon rides are early mornings or early evenings. In between, the URI campus fields host an all-day festival with inflatables, fishing ponds, a kid’s train, carnival rides, BBQ vendors, rock climbing, crafts and far more. Jul 20 – 22. URI Athletic Fields, Rte 138, Kingston.

Warren Quahog Festival: Chowders, clams, quahogs! There are also vendors, arts and crafts, and live entertainment. Jul 21 – 22. Burrs Hill Park, S. Water St, Warren.

Newport Flower Show: For all aficionados of flowers, horticulture and Martha Stewart (yes, that one will be attending). There’s also a special feature on tiny/cottage living straight out of the Gilded Age. Jun 22 – 24.

There will be a festival to accompany the Blessing of the Fleet harborside in Narragansett. You don’t need to be a nautical fan to enjoy this – though you’ll certainly have plenty of company if you are – as food, drink and general sidewalk entertainment will enliven Narragansett. Jul 26 – 28, with champagne bottles shattering on Jul 26, amid a procession of ships vying for “best decorated.” Seafood, alcohol, live music, a carnival and a road race (not against the ships – just against other runners) round out the festivities. Jul 26 – 28.

34th Annual Charlestown Seafood Festival: Featuring all things edible under the sea, with crafts, adventures, activities, rides and fireworks. Aug 3 – 5.

Rhode Island International Film Festival: Going strong into its third decade, RIIFF nominates short films for Oscar contention, features celebrity guests and has screenings, among many other things with a cinema verite flavor. Aug 7 – 12.

27th Annual CumberlandFest: A classic summer festival with rides, live music, a car show, fried food and fun for everyone in your family. Diamond Hill Park, 4097 Diamond Hill Rd, Cumberland, Aug 10 – 12.

A relatively new entry in the festival field, The Looff Fest has taken off with mustachioed impertinence and playful enthusiasm the last couple of years. It’s a giant art show, with all of the food and entertainment amenities that come with it, at the old carousel in EP. 11am – 6pm, Crescent Park, 700 Bullocks Point Ave, Riverside. Aug 11.

Farm Fresh RI, the non-profit bastion of local produce, holds an annual fest spiced with wine, mixed drinks and breathtaking Newportant ocean views, making it a feast for all the senses: both a giant farmers market and a tasting of what chefs can do with those ingredients. On the lawn of Castle Hill Inn, 590 Ocean Ave, Newport. 5 – 8pm, Aug 14.

Washington County Fair: The big “rural” carnival fair in South County. 4-H, adult games, rides, prizes, live music and so much more. 78 Richmond Townhouse Rd, Richmond. Aug 15 – 19.

New England Quahog Festival and Sea Creature Parade: Starting with a parade of creatures from Narragansett Bay, this beachside festival/fundraiser will have food trucks, live music (including The Copacetics and Superchief Trio), kayaking and a beer garden. Noon, North Kingstown Town Beach, 10 Beach St, North Kingstown. Aug 26.


Cultural Fests

Li’l Rhody’s a tiny state, but much like Epcot — during the course of the summer you can tour (and drink) your way around the globe. Are you feeling blue after St Patty’s Day? June 23 marks the James McNally Wilson Irish Festival at the Guild in Pawtucket. Starting at noon, it features an array of Irish/Celtic music, dance and food if you’re one of those people who enjoys corned beef and cabbage all year round.

Mosey on over to the Main Street Arts District in Pawtucket for the Feast of St. Jean Baptiste at 6pm on June 28, a festival highlighting the centuries-long history of one of its tiny but mighty towns.

Meanwhile, on July 21 at noon in Higginson Park in Central Falls, celebrate the Colombian Independence Day Festival with food, music and fun straight from South America. Don’t forget to check out the Colombian flag raising at 6pm on July 20 at Central Falls City Hall.

On August 12 is the 30th Annual Dominican Music and Cultural Festival at Roger Williams Park at noon. The Dominican Parade of RI starts 10am at the corner of Thurbers and Broad Streets in PVD.

Over the August 11 weekend is the Annual Bolivian Festival at the Alex & Ani Skating Rink, with a procession starting at 2pm from St Patty’s Cathedral on Smith Street, for added flavor. And although they don’t have festivals attached to them, there are the following flag raisings: July 6 will be the Venezuelan Independence Day flag raising, 6pm at the State House. On August 9 at 5pm at the State House is the Ecuadorian Independence Day Flag raising. There’s a Puerto Rican Flag raising on August 14 at 10am at the State House. Quick reminder: Puerto Rico still doesn’t have power.

The Southeast Asian Cultural Festival takes place in Fall River Heritage State Park at 10am on July 28, uniting the various cultures of southeastern Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia) into one festival with food, drink, crafts, music and plenty of stuff for the kids.

Head on down to Newport’s Independence Park on July 13 – 15 for the Black Ships Festival. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s not something pirate-related. Commemorating the end of two centuries of Japanese isolationism and the opening of trade, this cultural fest emphasizes Japanese art and culture. On June 9 and 10, downtown PVD hosts the annual Day of Portugal Festival, celebrating all things Luso, featuring food, dance and a WaterFire night. In similar spirit, perhaps the biggest traditional Day of Portugal event in the country takes place in Fall River from June 7 – 10. Documentaries exist about the heritage of this event, with strong ties to the sea and the fishing traditions of the Portuguese community (

On June 9 at 10am, the RI Scottish Heritage Society puts on their annual Rhode Island Scottish Highlands Festival at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Richmond. There will be food, dancing, bagpipe playing and heavy athletics.

And for our more Mediterranean readers out there, St Anthony’s Feast has been going strong for 40 years. This year it’s June 7 through 10 at St Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church, 1413 Mineral Spring Ave, N. Providence. Also keep an eye out for Cranston’s traditional St. Mary’s Feast, with date and details TBA.

And lastly, the 91st Annual Greek Festival returns to Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Pawtucket Sep 7 – 9. Expect Greek food, dancing, kafenio and an agora marketplace.

If that isn’t Greek enough for you, check out the Hellenic Fest in Newport. Take in the culture, food, pastries (oh, the pastries), wine, music and dancing and be Greek for a day. Opa! Jul 20 – 22. St Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, Newport.

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