WOONSOCKET — Organizers of Autumnfest 2012 say this year's edition of the city's famed Columbus Day weekend celebration is shaping up to be one of the best ever.
Autumnfest Steering Committee Chairman Timothy Paul Tuesday announced final preparations for the three-day event, which will be held at World War II Memorial Park from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; and 10 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. on Monday. Fireworks will be on Sunday at 9 p.m., and the Autumnfest parade kicks off at 9:30 a.m. Monday.
The Call/The Times is a platinum co-sponsor of Autumnfest and will also have a booth at the festival, now 34 years strong.
From opening ceremonies Saturday, to closing ceremonies Monday night, the Autumnfest stage will be red-hot non-stop. From down-home country to sophisticated big band arrangements, visitors will find the best local, regional and national acts in Woonsocket.
Jillian Bernier will sing the national anthem during opening events on Saturday morning.
There are a couple of new additions to Autumnfest. For the first time, there will be a "Bands for Fans" fundraiser, which will be held on Thursday from 6-11:30 p.m. in the Rotary Beer Garden. There are four bands competing for votes, including The Kickin' Brass Band, Steve Malec and Electric Flood, Original Jelly Roll Soul and the Nightflies.
Vote for your band for 50 cents per ballot. The band with the most votes plays the Autumnfest main stage in 2013. Participants can vote as many times as they like. If your band wins and your name is on the ballot, you win half the money in the pot.
The event will also include beer, dynamites and raffles, including a chance to win a signed guitar by all the bands donated by Al Drew's Music.
The Saturday headline act at Autumnfest this year will be Charlie Thomas’ Drifters.
For more than 50 years, the music of The Drifters has saturated the airwaves. The Drifters have scored a dazzling record number of Top 40 hits over their long performing careers. Charlie Thomas, on lead vocals, will take the audience through a journey of iconic songs, including There Goes My Baby, Under The Boardwalk, This Magic Moment, On Broadway, Save The Last Dance For Me, Sweets for My Sweet, Up On The Roof and more than 19 albums of recognizable songs.
Autumnfest entertainment chairman Paul Jacob has announced the full schedule of live performances on the main stage. The appearance of The Reminisants, Kings Row, John Worsley Swingtime and the popular Big Nazo band, are some of the highlights of the weekend's musical offerings.
Ocean State Dance Academy, The Hummingbird Trio, Swingtime, Country All Stars, and Fantasy Big Band will also perform.
Entertainment will also be provided in the Rotary Beer Garden. Steve Malec and Electric Flood and Through the Doors will play on Friday; The Old Man Band (T.O.M.B.) and Steve Smith & The Nakeds will perform on Saturday; The Complaints and Rockin' Soul Horns will perform on Sunday; and Violin River will play on Monday.
The Beer Garden will also be the venue for the launch of Woonsocket's own Ravenous Brewing Company. This will be the first time they will offer their craft beers.
Autumnfest, including the parade, will be televised in Northern Rhode Island on Cox channel 17. Both Woonsocket radio stations will carry segments of Autumnfest live on their respective channels.
Autumnfest wouldn't be complete without its giant midway, which will feature rides for all ages. Fanelli Amusement Company of Greenville, New Hampshire, will open earlier this year with midway rides operating Thursday through Monday.
Another highlight of Autumnfest is the popular Kidfest area that will include Over the Top (Rock Wall), CHIP Program (Children’s ID), Ponies To Go (pony rides), Autumfest Kid’s Challenge, and several kids performers.
Kidsfest has its own stage, which will include performances throughout the weekend, including Bwana Iguana (reptile show), Dennis The Magician, Gabby the Clown, and Anthony Paiva (guitarist/singer).
The consumer's showcase will highlight commercial business from the area including Sovereign Bank, Verizon, Owens Corning, and Nationwide Diesel Technologies, Inc., to name a few.
Community tent exhibitors include Sojourner House, St. Ann's Arts and Cultural Center, Evangelical Fellowship and the Woonsocket Taxpayers Coalition.
The Arts and Crafts booths are a huge part of the Autumnfest weekend. Over 100 craft booths will be set up throughout the park.
"These skilled artisans offer an excellent opportunity for you to get started on your Christmas shopping with unique and special gifts," Paul said.
The Woonsocket Rotary Club will again operate the beer garden, food court and soda booths. There will be more than 20 food vendors in the international food court offering eveything from Italian sausage to meat pies to pizza to New England clam cakes, chowder and fried clam rolls. Offerings will also include lobster stew, assorted baked potatoes, doughboys, Chinese food, Mexican food, wraps, shepherd's pie, stuffed quahogs, chili, falafel sandwiches, and numerous desserts.
Robert Picard of the Woonsocket Rotary Club, who supervises food concessions at Autumnfest, reports that a combination of non-profit and commercial food vendors should fill every culinary desire this weekend.
"We really encourage folks to come down and have a hot dog or a beer because these vendors are all local businesses, and community and non-profit organizations," Paul said. "So, when you buy something, you're supporting the community."
Autumnfest will again offer a full fireworks display on Sunday at 9 p.m., and the parade will be held on Monday morning at 9:30 from the Diamond Hill Plaza.
Bob Picard, the director of Woonsocket Senior Services, will serve as Grand Marshal of the parade this year. Picard is a longtime member and past president of the Rotary Club and has volunteered for the Autumnfest Committee in a number of capacities for more than 30 years.
The bucket brigade will include members of the Woonsocket High School music boosters collecting money while the parade marches down Diamond Hill Road and Social Street.
Thousands of Autumnfest buttons have already been purchased and thousands more are expected to be purchased during the event. Buttons are $1.
One button purchaser will win a trip for two to Orlando for four days and three nights with round-trip airfare and hotel donated by News/Talk 1380 WNRI.
Second prize: $300 winning number; third prize: $200 winning number; fourth prize: $100 winning number.
The winning button number will be drawn on Monday at the conclusion of the festival.
(For a complete list of this weekend's entertainment, vendors and other Autumfest events, visit www.autumnfest.org .)