Half pints for a cause: Drinking to support emergency workers

Giving to a charity makes us feel good. Giving to a charity and being able to raise a glass of delicious craft beer to them is even better. If you are looking to support a local cause this month you can do just that at Bristol Beer Fest. Most of Bristol’s Fire Department, with the exception of four career positions, is volunteer. These trained volunteer front line workers are making sure that the nearly 23,000 residents of Bristol are receiving medical care and that the town is safe. 

100% of the proceeds from this beer fest will be donated to Bristol Fire Department Benevolent Association Charitable Trust and the renovation of Fireman’s Memorial Park. A memorial is planned to be erected there in memory of volunteer fire fighters and emergency medical personnel. 

This event is being held at Vigilant Brewery. All four breweries from Bristol will be there with at least 16 total different beers to sample. In addition, there will be food from George’s Grill and Moving Dough Wood Fired Pizza. There will be live music by East Bay Roots and Mischievous and Friends.

The Four breweries of Bristol are Pivotal Brewing, Six Pack Brewing, Twelve Guns Brewing and Vigilant Brewing Co., Both Six Pack and Twelve Guns are past winners in Motif’s Drink Awards. This year, Twelve Guns was nominated in four beer categories. Six Pack was nominated and won in four beer categories. Vigilant Brewing Co is the newest brewery of these four – they opened in June of this year. It is the only one I have not been to and I am excited to try some of their craft beers.

Mark Papi, owner and brewer of Six Pack, mentioned that there will be a variety of beer styles offered at this beer fest. “There won’t be just all IPAs to sample. We are all meeting up soon to make sure of this.”  Each brewery “will be bringing at least four beers to sample.”  The event is being held at Vigilant Brewing Co, 44 Ballou Blvd in Bristol on Oct 23 from 1:30 – 4:30pm. At the time this article was written there were 100 tickets left.

Tickets are being sold on EventBrite. $35 per person includes an eight ounce sample glass, unlimited craft beer pours from the four breweries, and a door prize raffle ticket. 

With the season of Thanksgiving upon us, I would like to extend my gratitude to the Bristol volunteer Firefighters and EMS workers, Cheers and thank you!

“Art is what unites us”: Robertico Y Su Alebreke brings Latin flavor to RI Latinos and beyond

For almost 20 years, Latin music band Robertico y su Alebreke has been bringing Latin music to the community at large across RI. Aficionados in PVD, Pawtucket, Central Falls and beyond have become fans of the group’s diversified sound, including salsa, Latin jazz, bachata, and merengue.

Musician Robertico Arias has seen the Latin music scene boom in RI and doesn’t anticipate it slowing down anytime soon. Salsa is what Arias is mainly known for, and he finds that most musicians in the local Latin music scene concentrate heavily on bachata and typical merengue.

“I’m being sought out to play more salsa and Latin jazz at private events,” he said. Events include weddings, where patrons request salsa, cumbia, and bolero to dance to. According to Arias, his reach has grown and diversified just as the music scene has.

“We [also] have a great presence with non-Latino audiences through our Latin jazz,” Arias said. Along with a recent gig at Waterfire in PVD, Alebreke has performed in Jamestown, at a salsa night in Portsmouth and at the Newport Museum, among other places. They are also on their way to being known internationally, with their music getting airplay in Argentina, Peru, and Arias’ native Dominican Republic.

With most of their music also being distributed digitally through platforms like Spotify, Amazon, and iTunes, the doors have been opened for Alebreke to be heard across continents. Their album, Musico, Poeta, y Loco (Musician, Poet, and Crazy) was released in 2017 with 24 digitally downloadable tracks, which Arias is proud of.

One of his most recent projects is the track Soy del Caribe (I’m from the Caribbean), released in 2021 as an homage to Arias’ heritage. “I wrote it to vent about arriving [to the US] and the cold weather,” he said. 

Arias has recorded with merengue star Wilfrido Vargas and an array of other musicians. He is currently planning an international tour in the Dominican Republic and is working on a new salsa hit, La Batea, in his home studio, where he mixes and arranges all music.

Arias credits his mother, also a musician, for getting him started as a percussionist specializing in congas, bongo, timbales and percussion arrangement. “My mom is my number one influence; she would take me with her whenever she played at festivals and I saw the process of how the musicians warmed up their instruments,” he said.

Over time, Arias became a music instructor, teaching undergraduate students at Berklee College of Music, Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island. He also taught secondary students at Cranston East High School. “My students were from different cultures at the schools I taught at,” he said.

Alabreke was formed in 2001 but was side-tracked due to 9/11 and officially started playing in 2003. “In the Dominican Republic, Alabreke means a hyper-active, diverse person who likes to be in everything,” Arias said. “It’s a person that is always happy, with chispa. And not only salsa can be used to invoke Alebreke, it can be invoked by other styles [of music] as well.”

Latin music and dance in RI unite as one

Arias finds the Latin dance community helpful in getting local Latin music on the map. He recently played at a salsa night in Warren during a lesson and saw firsthand how well attendees responded to the music.

“There is a cross-fusion with dancers and musicians and people love to see that,” he said. “It’s marvelous.”

RI Latin Dance founder and owner Mori Granot-Sanchez couldn’t agree more. “The Latin music and dance scene in RI is beautiful and diverse,” she said. “I personally enjoy it the best when we get to dance to live bands at all the different festivals and outdoor events we have in RI.”

Granot-Sanchez finds it beautiful when music and dance blend together, for all to enjoy through the talented artists and musicians from Little Rhody, regardless of background. “You don’t need to be Latino/a to enjoy the culture, music and dance, you just need to appreciate its beauty, respect the roots where it originated from and join the party,” she said. 

Arias is also most inspired by seeing everyone in the community united to celebrate one another through art and culture, be it within the Latino community or beyond.

“If we do an event, it’s important for Latinos to go and support it,” he said. “We should also all be united as a community [of] all cultures. Art is what unites us.”

Columbus Day: Two points of view 

For most Americans, the second Monday of every October is just another long weekend. America observes the federal holiday of Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer responsible for several voyages across the Atlantic. Many groups, including the large population of Italian-Americans in Rhode Island, choose to celebrate Columbus as a symbol of pride, and of what Italian immigrants risked in pursuit of a better life. 

Others have a different perspective. Many people of Indigenous descent believe Columbus is a symbol of white supremacy – the beginning of genocide and cruelty for many across North America. On Monday, many will choose to celebrate traditions, and others will use it as a day to mourn. From many perspectives, Columbus Day is an evolving holiday. 

“It’s the acknowledgment of the beginning of genoicde, ” said Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro, part of the international Anishinabeg Nation, Wa pili Clan under Chief NightHawk Flying. “It’s not [because] he’s Italian; he’s a European white man. When we use the term European white man, we aren’t trying to crap all over anyone who’s white or anyone who has white skin, we usually are referring to Europeans in general,” she said.

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day sometimes involves the defacing of Columbus statues across the U.S. “We don’t have a voice in a lot of places,” said Rising Dawn. “It gives us [a] voice in a way too.” When asked if both Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day could be celebrated simultaneously, she responded, “Absolutely. Although I believe there’s gonna be a huge bias. You’re gonna have people who see both sides. You can’t get anywhere in life if you’re not at least open to seeing and hearing other perspectives. I think it’s important to learn about Columbus because he had a lot to do with the whitewashing of Native people.” 

On the federal holiday, many Indigenous Americans will do what our nation does best – use its freedom of speech and mourn the loss of culture and ancestors. 

Many Italians, of course, have another point of view.  

“Italian-Americans, when they first came here, were persecuted just like anybody else,” said Rick Simone of the Federal Hill Commerce Association, adding that Columbus became the symbol of Italian pride dating to 1792 in New York City. “It was to honor the Italians that came here and their traditions,” Simone said. Italian-Americans observe the day to celebrate their history and accomplishments. Asked if both days could be celebrated simultaneously he responded, “Absolutely. I wouldn’t see any reason why it couldn’t be done that way,” he said. There’s a bottom line with Simone: respect. “We respect everyone’s right to have an opinion, and everyone’s right to have a thought about it, and we just ask that they respect ours as well. We recognize certain things [other cultures] feel for the reasons they do.” On Historic Federal Hill, the day is about celebrating. “For us being a very Italian district we still consider ourselves the little Italy of Rhode Island, not just Providence. It’s a tradition of things we want to carry out.” 

The Federal Hill Commerce Association is celebrating its 30th annual Columbus Day Festival on Historic Federal Hill from October 7-10, from Dean Street to Sutton Street along Atwells Ave. 

Meanwhile, if you are interested in attending a celebration of justice and community, PRONK 2022 is holding a festival of music and art centered around Black and Indigenous culture. The event will be held Monday October 10 at Dexter Park in Providence from 11 am to 5 pm. 

Storming the Castle: Party to preserve local gothic architecture

Barnaby Castle is quite probably the first house where murder by US mail happened, right here in Providence, RI. It also resulted in what was the longest homicide trial in the US at that time, almost six weeks (others have, naturally, lasted much longer since then). In comparison, for the trial of Lizzie Borden, the prosecution rested after nine days. Who can say why one house has more notoriety than the other? Of course, Barnaby Castle doesn’t boast of any ghosts, while the Lizzie Borden House Bed & Breakfast and Museum of Fall River, MA, makes some lists as one of the top 10 most haunted places in the US; that probably has something to do with it. Still, Barnaby has something that the Borden House doesn’t yet have: a killer Halloween party.

  This will be the party’s fifth year; it would have been six, if not for the pandemic. Kaitlyn Frolich of Kaitlyn Alyece Event Architects is the chief architect for the gathering. Every year, they assemble dozens of sponsors & volunteers to provide food & drink from the best local restaurants, such as Julian’s and The Capital Grille, as well as immersive art installations & decorations from local artists, and entertainment on every level of the building. The party starts at 7pm for those who purchase VIP tickets; there will be special performances, food & drinks, and all sorts of surprises. All other ticket holders are welcome after that first hour. “It’s an expensive ticket, but it’s all inclusive,” says Frolich. She feels one of the things people like about the event is that it’s just pure fun, “no shakedown,” as in no raffle, auction, or other major grab for money outside of the ticket price.

  There is very little in the way of expenses for this shindig, because so much is donated. Frolich estimates the return is about ninety-eight percent. All proceeds go to help the restoration of the house. Attendees are not just going to a great Halloween party, but they are also becoming “a partner in the preservation” of a piece of RI history. Barnaby Castle was built in 1875 for Jerothmul & Josephine Barnaby, prominent members of RI society. Today, painstaking work is being put into making this house the ”gem of Broadway” that it was then. So far, the party has helped to pay for restoration of the stained-glass windows in the solarium, exterior painting, and saving the distinctive, defining turret from falling off the side of the mansion. 

  Last year’s party was especially difficult, while still in the pandemic. They did the responsible thing in having testing stations & requiring proof of vaccination. With three hundred guests over the course of the evening, not one case of COVID was reported. “Not one sniffle,” said Frolich proudly. Vaccinations are still encouraged this year, but I believe the only mask that you will be required to wear is the one that might go with your costume. Choose carefully, because there is a costume contest, on top of everything else this group provides.   If you want to join the party, http://www.kaitlyn-alyece-events.com/barnaby-castle has info, pics from previous years, & a link for ticket purchasing. Due to the limited size of the venue, there is a limit on how many tickets are sold, so if this is something you would be interested in attending, don’t sit on the fence; this event will sell out.

Tina through the times: Motif reviews Tina, the musical at PPAC

Photo courtesy of PPAC

Okee dokee folks; I am from the generation that watched Ike & Tina Turner on TV and heard them on the radio back in the 60’s and 70’s. I also remember the comeback of Tina Turner in the early 80’s. I saw the What’s Love Got to Do With It biopic film in the early ’90s and recently watched the 2021 Tina documentary. Unfortunately I never saw her in concert. When I learned about the Tina musical I figured that this would be the next best thing, and it was!

Last night, Wednesday, September 14, I was in the audience for the fourth night of the Tina musical which made its tour debut in Providence at the Providence Performing Arts Center this past Sunday. So far the crowds have been large, energetic, welcoming and overwhelmingly appreciative.

The easy thing for me to say about the show is that it’s “Simply The Best,” but that would be an oversimplification. The show is very good and will have you run the gamut of emotions. For some it may be tough witnessing the domestic violence of Anna Mae’s (Tina) father, Floyd Richard Bullock, and her partner/husband Ike Turner or hearing a racial epithet such as when Tina is initially rejected by a record company with the utterance by the president, “no way in hell Capital is going to give this old nigger broad a deal!” Even though you may endure a couple of triggering moments, the ultimate reward is the performance and what a performance it was.

The show opens when a curtain adorned with the eyes of Tina Turner rises and Turner is standing in silhouette about to take the stairs to the stage. She then drops to the floor and begins a Buddhist chant. This scene transitions to her beginnings as the child Anna Mae Bullock, played by Ayvah Johnson, in Tennessee. This child will reappear many times throughout the show. We watch as she meets and first sings with Ike Turner, played by Garret Turner, and when she ultimately marries him. We see the evolution of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue and the downfall of their marriage and the group. Finally, we witness her resurrection as the solo artist, Tina Turner, that most are familiar with today. When posed with the issue of trying to make a record for her comeback she exclaims, “I may be jumping at the sun but I have long legs!”

This is a jukebox musical chock full of Turner hits cleverly inserted into appropriate situational portrayals of her life. Some of the songs may be placed in times before they were actually released, but that is ok, it works! Numbers from her early days right up to her mega-hits are all included— “Nutbush City Limits” all the way to “The Best” and even “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

This show rests squarely on the hit songs and the talent of the lead role. For this performance, Tina was played by Naomi Rodgers. Evidently she will be alternating performances with Zurin Villanueva who will also portray Tina. They are not understudies for each other, they have others who are. 

As I said, the success of the show rests on the music as well as the talent of the lead role, and Naomi Rodgers handled it with ease and comfort. She tackled teenage Tina all the way through Turner’s renaissance. Her voice was impeccable and she effortlessly emulated Turner’s growl-like vocal style.

The best parts of the show are the ensemble songs when it mimicked more of a concert feel than a musical. “I Want To Take You Higher,” “Proud Mary” and “Disco Inferno” are all good examples of this. Tina’s trademark dance style was channeled through all the dance routines. The one duet that worked particularly well was “Let’s Stay Together” between Tina and saxophonist Raymond Hill, a bandmate with whom she’d had an affair and become pregnant with her first child, Craig.

The scenery is mostly electronic. The rear wall screen was illuminated by flashing lights, miscellaneous background scenes, and good old 60’s psychedelic flashes. Physical scenery is sparse. Stage props came and went with the help of cast members and stage hands. The one piece that showed up many times was a simple door. This show focused on the music and talent.

The show ends as it began with Tina about to take the stage at a concert with the rousing closing number.

Tina clocks in with a performance time of about two hours and 30 minutes not counting the 15 minute intermission. A couple of times I felt a slight drag but it was immediately perked up by another rocking tune. Just when you think it is over they have just a little more for you, and this is the cherry on top of an already sweet cake! 

Though Tina may get slapped during this show there’s no touching this performance and Turner’s legacy of music. It’s a story of hope, escape, redemption, and success. 

Tina, the musical was at Providence Performing Arts Center through Sunday, September 18. See it next time it’s in town. At the end of this show my girlfriend’s first words were, “I loved it, I want to see it again!“

For more about this show, go to PPACRI.org

That’s it for now. Please check my other Motif offerings at: MotifRI.com/RootsReportPodcast I also have a new web link where you can find my concert photographs- MotifRI.com/FuzeksFotos. Thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

The Inheritance: The gay experience in America

Epic might seem a fitting word to describe the season opener at Trinity Repertory Company because it implies grandiosity, but while The Inheritance, Part 1 is certainly grand, it is so much more.

An astonishing three and a half hours – and Part 2 opening later this month to run in rep – this is an immense undertaking for cast, crew and audience. From constructing the widest stage possible, using both wings, to relaying the lives, loves and losses of three generations of gay men, the show is painful enough to elicit sobs from the audience and joyous enough to generate belly laughs.

No, epic doesn’t even begin to describe this one.

The Inheritance, by Matthew López, is a raw look at the marginalization of gays, the loss of life due to AIDS and the buoyancy of men who survive because they have their “families of choice.”

The production then introduces a character representing British author E.M. Foster, whose early 20th-century book Howard’s End is said to have inspired López. Foster joins a crew of gay friends struggling to write their story, becoming their coach, prompting plot twists and guiding story development, injecting his old-fashioned, completely British humor along the way.

The story to be told is Toby’s semi-autobiographical story about a young gay man. While he struggles to get the concept written and staged, he relies on his partner, Eric and his rent-controlled apartment. Toby is egotistical, while Eric is sweet if undermotivated. Their relationship is challenged by a chance meeting with a young wealthy man, Adam.

As Foster, played exquisitely by Stephen Thorne, moves the animated crew through the story, a third generation of gay men is introduced, bonding with Eric while Toby heads to Chicago to produce his play.

Through the tumult of the AIDS epidemic, the fight for gay marriage and what seems to be a somewhat lackluster aftermath, the emphasis is on what, if anything, people glean or inherit from human interactions. What can the older men teach the younger? How does it feel when a younger man realizes he is the older mentor? What does the sum of it all mean for them?

Directed by Joe Wilson Jr., The Inheritance Part 1 is honest, provocative and memorable. He and the cast use humor and riveting monologues to impress the depth of these experiences on the audience in ways that leave them forever changed.

The cast meshes organically with simultaneous chatter and laughter feeling like invitations to their private party. Sex is handled in edgy ways, with body motions and props like long white sheets simulating stimulation, as Foster narrates with lines like, “Release the hounds!”

The friends represent all backgrounds and experiences. The older Walter, given a wonderfully awkward persona by Mauro Hantman, recalls his father calling him a “feathery, delicate boy.” Toby, played to fiery perfection by Taavon Gamble, is quiet about his childhood, hinting at trauma. One married couple is adopting. Another claims he will never marry.

The ensemble offers breath-taking moments and monologues with a passion that is unparalleled. Chingwe Padraig Sullivan makes his Trinity debut as Adam, infusing the character with sharp contrast that shifts with the company he keeps. Jack Dwyer embodies the uncertainty and insecurity of Eric beautifully.

Together, the men persevere, asking each other at one point how to preserve “gay markers” special to their community. It is at that point that the show, which stretches over three acts, could potentially be tightened. One segment feels slightly preachy and repetitive, perhaps better suited for post-show talk-back sessions. Some salient messages – the need, for example, to protect gays from vengeful fanatics – get overshadowed by the verbosity.

Even with this observation, The Inheritance Part 1 proves a treasure to educate some, comfort others and deepen the larger sense of community we desire. The show runs through November 5, with Part 2 running from September 22 to November 6. *For more information, go to www.trinityrep.org.  

RIP Chip Young’s Cool, Cool World

We are stunned and saddened to report that Chip Young, environmental activist, rabble-rouser and long-time contributor to Motif and to Rhode Island journalism, passed away suddenly on August 24. 

Chip and collaborator Rudy Cheeks have brought Phillipe & Jorge’s Cool, Cool World to RI readers through various publications, including The Eagle, The Newpaper, The Phoenix and Motif, non-stop for the last 43 years. This issue represents Rhode Island’s first month in 43 years not graced or garnished by commentary, sarcastic and heartfelt, from the larger-than-life characters, Phillipe & Jorge.

Chip’s commentary, often incendiary, generally wry and barbed, helped shape RI’s cultural and political landscape. In Chip’s own words, describing the history of the column:

If there is a key to Phillipe and Jorge’s success, we call on the legendary Urinal columnist and our longtime friend, Bob Kerr, who once wrote that P&J “had more of the truth and less of the facts.” We stand tall with pride. And he was right.

The Cool, Cool World was hatched around a table at the legendary Leo’s, full of lunatics and dozens of empty Rolling Rock beer bottles… We used the oh-so-continental-sounding P&J personal monikers to cover our asses, while old pal and artist supreme Dan Gosch came up with the “Cool, Cool World” title.

Since we knew our goal was to piss off people of the highest rank — we being just a couple of (well-informed) wiseasses — we decided to adopt the personas of gay men. This despite J’s girlfriend of the time telling the media, correctly, that we were hopelessly heterosexual. But that didn’t stop us from being very honored to be named grand marshals of the (then “Gay”) Pride March in its earliest days, when the Providence police were still trying desperately to ban the parade.

Chip talked about sports a lot (and wrote a sports column on and off over the decades (yes, there’s a pun in that phrase). The last entry, explaining RI sports to newcomers, appears in this issue), but he rarely spoke about his own sporting history. According to his close friend, Jimmy Etchells, who knew Chip since grade school and was a classmate at Brown, Chip was a real athlete back in the day. He played baseball, basketball and other sports at a varsity level, and excelled particularly in soccer. At Brown he was one of the most valuable players on a prodigious team, named All-Ivy for three years and All-American one year, and is in Brown’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Chip played for the Pawtucket Rangers for over 10 years in the ‘70s. “He was really gifted,” adds Rudy. “He had heart surgery when he was about nine years old, a new and radical procedure, and he would say that if not for that, he would have died in his twenties. He treated the rest of his years like extra time he was grateful to have.”

At Motif, he was always a wise source of advice and support – a greatly valued contributor and a friend. He represented the old-school counter culture, and was one of the “grown ups” many of here were still somehow trying to impress. If you only knew him through his column, you might think abrasive, hard-to-please crusader; but if you knew him in real life, only the word crusader would carry over. He was always ready to help a good cause.

Chip’s off-the-page passions were directed at environmental efforts. He was a long-standing PR Director for Save the Bay, President of the board at ecoRI News and senior fellow at the URI Coastal Institute.

For anyone who would like to share thoughts or memories of Chip, Rudy is compiling a tribute – send them to him or through our email at publisher@motifri.com. There was no formal service, but a memorial is being planned for October. Don’t hold back. In Rudy’s words, “Chip would want his obituary to be funny.” 

Here is a sampling of comments from social media and from Chip’s memorial page at Quinn Funeral Homes, thequinnfuneralhome.com:

RIP, Chip. You found my typos, you introduced me to some really sweet weirdos, and you made me laugh so, so hard. What else is there? – Kathy Connolly

I always considered Chip Young and Bruce McCrae to be the watchdogs of democracy and decency in Rhode Island. They never shied away from anything they thought was unjust or out of line and they gave us biting humor as a bonus. – Robert Yeremian

He was a good man and always greeted you with a genuine smile. I loved reading his stuff. – Mark Cutler

When “ccworld” was in the PVD Phoenix, Chip would hold court @ Leos (the best ever bar in PVD). He’d whisper, “Did you think I was too rough on_____?” “No,” I said, “Anyway, you can always blame Bruce for that one.” – James Celenza

It was always great to see him and talk about sports, politics, humor, ecology, whatever. A genuinely nice man. – David Everett

RIP Chip. Thanks for all the engaging stories and the laughter they created. – Len Cabral

Chip was a pal you could depend on and a colleague you could admire and be grateful for. He was the Ying to Rudy’s Yang and together they made wonderful commentary a precious gift. For non-profits Chip was always generous with his time as a volunteer for special events and he always added a wonderful note for the audience and for those in need who benefitted from his generosity of time, talent, and resources. – Mary Ann Sorrentino

He taught me that stuffing envelopes wasn’t busy work. A clean fold and a neatly positioned stamp meant you cared about the letter and respected the recipient. Chip challenged me to write the first serious article of my life — a story about the threat of dioxins. I was so overwhelmed by the complexity of the subject that I ended up in tears before my fingers hit the typewriter keys. He found a way to make me laugh, he boosted my confidence, and sent me back to the trenches to try again. – Cindy Elder

I can hear Chip saying, “So what?” Never ever with callous disregard, and always with the goal to get to the heart of the matter – what is the essential truth that must be shared? … He gave us this tip to help listeners focus on the most important information. Right before you get to your key point, pause, and say, “Here’s the thing.” That exercise forced us to be more disciplined …  and helped get some good legislation passed. So, here’s the thing: Chip left an indelible mark on RI’s environmental movement, and we are all better off because of his generosity and skill. – Sheila Dormody

I’m so grateful for the support Chip Young and Rudy Cheeks gave the LGBTQ community in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when a plug from them in their column (or actually joining us in a float) would boost attendance at the then tiny Pride Parade. When a “be there or be square” shout out from them made Adam Bock’s Gayboy Nutcrackers THE event of our holiday season. We will miss you, big guy! – Michael Guy

For the original announcement from Motif, click here.

The In-Cider Scoop: 3 local destinations for unique cider this fall

Summer is coming to a close and many are packing up beach chairs to trade in for fall activities. Autumn is known for crisp air, exceptional foliage — and cider. In New England, cider has been a staple since the first apple seeds were brought to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Looking for unique cider this season? Here are three spots for a one-of-a-kind experience you can only find locally. 

#1: Sowams Cider Works Company 

If you ask for cider at Sowams, you’re going to get an alcoholic drink. “What I’m doing is part of a resurgence of the cider making practice in this country,” said Sowams’ owner Spencer Morris. Located in Warren, Morris not only ages the cider in his own cellar, but grows his own apples. “I am a grower first. I would not make cider if I didn’t grow my own apples. If you want the best ciders, seek out cider makers that grow their own fruit,” Morris said. Growing more than 50 types of apples, the fruit is also bound to Rhode Island history. The Rhode Island Greening is just one variety you can find at Long Lane Orchard in Warren, which provides the Sowams apples. “These are old apples, and with them come these wonderful stories.” Consumers see cider as a beer alternative, but Morris sees his product differently. “In terms of both the palette and the way it can be consumed, it is more similar to grape wine.” The cider has no added sulfites, sugar or carbonation. 

Sowams also sells apples by the bunch, locally made honey and cider soap. They offer packaged cheese, and Morris encourages people to bring takeout from local restaurants. They remain open year-round Thursday through Sunday and offer events for groups. 

#2: Hard-Pressed Cider Co. 

If you’re not afraid of change, the cider here will not disappoint. Hard-Pressed Cider Co., located at Windmist Farm in Jamestown, offers non-alcoholic mulled cider, hot or cold, and cider slushies. “Our cider kind of changes with the season,” said co-owner Jaclyn Swanson. “You’ll definitely notice a difference if you were to come three times in the season — once in September, once in October and another time in November… flavor differences just based on seasonal apples.” Inconsistency in the flavor changes week-to-week, depending on what local orchards have in season for apples. “We really do love celebrating the difference.” 

The business started in 2011, but in 2015 the company introduced apple cider doughnuts.  “It was something that we had been wanting to do for quite some time,” Swanson said. ”We’ve got a little bit more time [now] because we’re not packing up and moving every weekend. And who doesn’t love a good cider doughnut?” 

Hard-Pressed Cider Co. moves twice a year, setting up at Windmist Farm from Labor Day until the week before Thanksgiving, relocating to The Farmer’s Daughter in South Kingstown for the Christmas season. They are open seasonally, and opened for business this year on September 2.

#3: B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill

Located in Mystic, CT, Clyde’s is the oldest steam-powered cider mill in the United States, and the last. This national historical landmark began operating in 1881 and has remained family-owned for many generations. Fifth generation owner Annette, and husband Harold Miner still press cider in the original mill, creating 14 different apple wines and eight hard cider varieties. Visitors can try hard cider in the tasting room on weekends. If you’re looking to enjoy a treat with some cider, Clyde’s has many options: Take home a few dozen freshly baked old-fashioned apple cider doughnuts covered in cinnamon sugar, or try other bakery items, jams, dips and more. Cider demonstrations are scheduled on the weekends, but patrons are not permitted in the mill when pressing is active. However, they are allowed to watch from the open doors.  

Clyde’s is open seven days a week in September and October from 9am – 6pm, and November and December 9am – 5pm. Scheduled pressings and tasting room visits are offered on Saturday and Sunday only. Hard cider is sold starting at 10am Monday through Saturday, and at 11am on Sunday. Their season started September 1.

Painting for Hope: Cathren Housley’s Wall of Hope fosters optimism among the youth of PVD

Cathren Housley began her work with community art projects and installations in 2007 when she worked with the RISD Museum and community members to create a wall mosaic depicting the Great Serpent Mound found in Adams County, Ohio. It was at this moment that Housley saw how community art could inspire children.

“When I saw the effect that being real artists had on kids and how it inspired them, I just kept wanting to do more of these,” said Housley.

For the last 15 years, Housley has worked on a number of community art projects, one of the biggest being the Great American Flag project which was done in conjunction with Ginny Fox and the Peace Flag Project in 2015. A series of three large tapestries of the American Flag were made out of small square pieces called “peace flags,” including squares contributed by then-RI Governor Gina Raimondo and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

Now, Housley has moved on to her next big project, the Wall of Hope at the Smith Hill Library in PVD. The Wall of Hope started in early July and is a planned art installation with the central concept that the content will be contributed by community members.

“This was my next opportunity to really do a project where I was bringing the entire community together and the idea behind it is that everyone who’s putting something on this piece of art is putting their thoughts for hope,” said Housley

Housley’s main inspiration and drive to create this collaborative piece was that she wanted to give the youth of lower-class neighborhoods in PVD the chance to express themselves and to discover the powerful outlet that art can be. She, along with Alan Gunther, the director of the Smith Hill Library, held workshops to help youth create their pieces for the wall. She was very successful with the participants and was even shocked by how well some of them were doing.

“They all had this idea that art was just a picture you hung on your wall… to say that they had no materials at home is putting it mildly… they didn’t have anything,” said Housley. “When we started giving them all this stuff to work with… it was just astonishing! You could see that the future was opening up for them in a new way and that’s why I’m inspired to keep doing it.”

The Wall of Hope will be a permanent installation located in the main entrance room of the Smith Hill Library with the idea that the messages behind each piece will inspire and bring a sense of optimism to those who view it.

“The idea is to have a magnetic centerpiece when it’s done so that everyone who comes and stands in front of it feels a sense of hope, is affected by the hope and the positive energy that everybody who worked on it contributed,” explained Housley. “Every kid who’s painting has got something special that they are bringing, and we’re going to feature all of it and give them credit in the final art.”

After the Wall of Hope, Housley hopes to expand the project and have one added to more community libraries in PVD. She also hopes (haha) to get back into collaborating with the Peace Flag Project and working on projects that represent women and people of color in the US.

“I feel like our connectivity to each other, our sense of community, is one of our biggest prospects for power, for people in ordinary life to have power,” said Housley. “When you get hundreds of people together, and you can combine their energy together in a cohesive form for power, for positive energy, wow! You can do a lot with that.”

The Blackstone Commons Anthology Seeks Writing

Writers: Here’s a nugget of inspiration and a publishing opportunity we were made aware of by Patti McAlpine at one of Motif’s recent Spoken Word and Poetry (SWAP) meets (a fun, open event for anyone with a love of words, taking place on the first and third Tuesday of each month at R1 Entertainment Center in Lincoln, RI)

Patti McAlpine described it eloquently – our words here won’t do that justice – and her love and respect for the river came through powerfully. The Blackstone River Commons, a non-profit supporting the preservation and appreciation of the river, is seeking letters, poems and gifts from the community to the river. The prompt for the letter is…. If you could have a conversation with the Blackstone River, what would you say? The gifts can be in any artistic medium.

“This project will culminate in the publishing of The Blackstone Commons Anthology – a publication that will be a vessel to hold, document, and inspire people to reflect on these multiple histories and relationships we have with the river. Selected pieces in the publication will include essays, letters, archival materials, interviews, and gifts to the river.”

Send Physical Letters to: The Blackstone River, P.O Box 215, Pawtucket, RI 02860-9998. Or email them to: blackstonerivercommons@gmail.com