Summer Festivals in Rhode Island

The spring has rain, the winter has sadness, and — okay — the fall has amicable weather and colored leaves, and those are pretty great. But let’s be honest: the best time of year is the summer. Even if you don’t love spending your weekends on one of Rhode Island’s 100 private or public beaches, lounging on a freshly dug out “sand couch” with a cold beer in hand, there is plenty to keep everyone entertained — from the food lover to the flower lover and everything in between.

We did our best to cover the range — sorry if we missed a few — but here are our favorite summer festivals to look forward to this summer!

PVD Fest: Drop what you’re doing (after reading this paragraph), and go immediately to PVD Fest. We did a great write-up in the last issue, but the TLDR version is this: It’s a citywide arts festival that overtakes the streets of downtown Providence. There will be music and dance, art installations and artisan crafts, a “Global Food Village” and even poetry that drops from the sky. Curious? Check it out. June 1 – 4; pvdfest.com

The Block Island Music Festival: A free grassroots festival featuring undiscovered local talent in what they describe as “a six-day-long musical gumbo” at Block Island’s premier nightclub, Captain Nick’s Rock ‘n Roll Bar. Bonus: Free barbecue from 5pm onward for festival goers! June 13 – 18; blockislandmusic.com

Newport Flower Show: Calling all horticulturists, Francophiles, and lovers of moonlight, movies, and cocktails. This flower show has it all, as well as presentations by three special guests, including fashion icon Iris Apfel. (The fact that she shares a name with a flower is purely coincidental. Or is it?) June 23 – 25; newportmansions.org

Wickford Art Festival: One of the longest-standing outdoor art festivals in New England, Wickford will host its 55th annual fine arts festival along the main streets of this seaside village. Over 200 artists will display their expertise in acrylics, oils, glass, sculpture, photography, etching, sketching and more. July 8 – 9; wickfordart.org

Warren Quahog Festival: RI natives show off their culinary talents in a wide variety of freshly cooked seafood, chowders, stuffed quahogs, littlenecks and clam cakes. And if you don’t know what a quahog is [KOH-hog: a clam], come experience true Rhode Island cuisine! This festival also partners with the Warren Art Festival on Burr’s Hill Park, featuring artists and live musical entertainment, so you won’t be in short supply of things to do. July 15 – 16

South County Balloon Festival: Described once as “The closest thing to Heaven without dying,” floating skyward in a hot air balloon has always been on my list of life goals. You can take a tethered ride between 6 and 8am, or again at dusk when they do a “Hot Air Balloon Glow,” which roughly translates to “Awesome photo opportunity for people who like to stay grounded.” In between dawn and dusk, this FREE festival on URI campus includes activities for kids and adults, ranging from wildlife shows to daredevil-stunt shows, from train rides to rock climbing. July 21 – 23; southcountyballoonfest.com

Fringe PVD: Presented by the Wilbury Theatre Group, this festival is, in essence, the superior version of open mic nights that allow performers from all backgrounds to have an opportunity to shine. All proceeds from tickets go to the performing artists. July 24 – 29; fringepvd.org

Newport Folk Music Festival: Notorious for tickets selling out within hours, this folk fest is the most popular music event of the year, down at Fort Adams State Park in Newport. July 28 – 30. (Tickets are, of course, already sold out). If you didn’t score one — and don’t happen to own a boat to eavesdrop from the water — you could also try New Bedford Folk Festival: a variety of folk genres performed on multiple stages in downtown New Bedford. July 8 – 9; zeiterion.org

Charlestown Seafood Festival: Surprise, surprise, the Ocean State loves its ocean-caught food! Festival-goers have access to the full gastronomic experience, plus a slew of crafts, adventure activities, amusement rides and even a firework display. August 4 – 6; facebook.com/charlestownseafoodfestival

Washington County Fair: Known as the largest agricultural event in RI, this fair includes a plethora of concerts, agricultural shows, horse pulls, food — even the largest traveling roller coaster in New England. Kids under 10 are free. August 16 – 20; washingtoncountyfair-ri.com

Greek Festivals of RI: For those of us who aren’t able to visit Greece this summer (and believe me, I’m in mourning over this), we can attend festivals that bring Greece to us. The first one is in Pawtucket — in its 90th year — complete with homemade traditional foods, a Greek market, games and activities, live music and dance performances. Opa! August 18 – 20; assumptionri.org/GreekFestRI

Necronomicon: Lovecraftian lore galore, a four-day celebration of the strange and unusual. HP Lovecraft’s life, works, and the work of others who embrace weirdness. Running August 17 – 20, experiences range from a pilgrimage march to eldritch art galleries, and from terrifying film screenings to “Golden Key” passes (which sell out nearly a year in advance) allowing access to the void itself, including behind the scenes participation in some of the events. There’s even an ever mysterious costume ball. Visit Necronomicon-providence.com for more information.

Foo Fest: AS220’s annual music and arts festival, originally the “Fool’s Ball,” a carnival-like fundraiser that has since expanded into an all out block party featuring upwards of 25 musical acts with national headliners and art installations through downtown’s Empire Street. August 12, with a family friendly afternoon free for kids under 10 until 6pm.  For full schedule and line-ups check out foofest.as220.org/

Rhode Island International Film Fest: Entering its 21st year, the RIIFF is August 8 – 13. In addition to recommending short films for Oscar contention, the fest features things like celebrity guests, a curated musical competition, a film scavenger hunt, and outdoor screenings. Last year’s 273  films came from 66 countries and 34 states! Tickets and show times can be found at film-festival.org.

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