Newport BridgeFest: Bridging the Gap

Despite the illustrious histories of both the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, there was for many years something missing.

A bridge between them!

So, in 2008, Newport’s BridgeFest was born. The Newport-centric event provides a variety of music throughout Newport County that links the two iconic events. Originated by Newport’s Arts and Cultural Alliance, it now falls under the auspices of the Newport Festival Foundation providing an even more concrete connection.


Jill Davidson, director of the Newport Festival Foundation describes it this way:

“BridgeFest is a collection of events put on by local venues, and they present their own performers. We’re basically promoting it,” she says before connecting it to the more well-known events that bookend it. We’re doing it as a way to build a bridge between the Folk and Jazz Festivals and to build a bridge with the local community.”

To that end, the Festival Foundation will be hosting a Wednesday night show on the Fort Adams site of Jazz and Folk Fests, easily arranged since the staging remains there in the week between the two larger events. Wednesday night’s show will feature Motif music award winners for “Best Alternative Act,” the Copacetics, who plan on bringing along a few special guests, and Girls Rock RI!

“The festival embodies a concept of ‘bridging relationships’ between the artists, the community, the venues, the media, etc,” explains Copacetics percussionist and original BridgeFest participant, Aaron Abrahamsson Cote. “If there’s anyone who understands the importance of community, it’s our frontman Matt Di Chiara. He was able to line up special guest stars from bands around the region who will be joining us on stage at Fort Adams.”


Much like the two events that sandwich it, BridgeFest provides a seemingly overwhelming array of options, so we figured it best to let a couple of veterans tip you to events they won’t be missing.

“Lois Vaughn is always great, she’s going to be on the Newport Cruise,” recommends Thompson. “For the first time this year, the Newport Dinner Cruise is participating. They’re going to have the Lois Vaughn duo on Thursday night, and on Monday night, they’re having a bluegrass duo, so that should be a nice thing to do.”

Cote, meanwhile has a special connection to the event, having been the first director of BridgeFest. He remains partial to Busking @ Bowens, a free event at Bowen’s Wharf Pilot House from Monday through Thursday.

“Each night features local artists who are encouraged to perform as much of their own original music or arrangements as possible,” he explains. “It’s awesome when the community comes out to support the young artists, toss a few dollars in the tip jar, dance on the street and just tell a talented kid they’re making some beautiful art.”

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