WOONSOCKET – There is no question the city has been in a struggle to survive fiscally in recent months but Mayor Leo T. Fontaine said Wednesday the upcoming 125th anniversary of the city’s incorporation should still be a time for city residents to recall all the things that make it great.
And to that end, a group of more than 100 volunteers from city organizations, businesses, and committed residents is now working on a Main Street block party everyone involved hopes will equal or exceed the celebration of the city’s 100th Anniversary in 1988.
Fontaine acknowledged that the city has gone through a lot while fighting to straighten out its finances over the last few years and explained how people had approached him with an appeal that the 125th anniversary not be overshadowed by those problems.
“I had people coming up to me saying `you know, it is the city’s 125th anniversary coming up and we really need to celebrate this,” Fontaine said.
“And sometimes, it is easy to get caught down into the work and everything that is going on, and as I saw the enthusiasm of these people who had come to me, I said you know what, you are right,” Fontaine said.
“This is something we need to use as an opportunity to bring this city back together to celebrate our heritage and to celebrate all of the things that are so good about our city,” he said.
With that mind, a group of volunteers formed and starting putting ideas together which in turn became a bigger group with more and more people getting involved, Fontaine said.
The group is still growing and Fontaine said it is reaching out to bring more and more of the city’s residents and organizations into the effort.
Thus far, only the groundwork of that celebration has been done, and more work will be needed, but Fontaine said Wednesday during a small gathering in the foyer of the Stadium Theatre that he was “very happy to announce that on August 29th we will be holding the 125 anniversary celebration of our great city of Woonsocket with the celebration of a block party that is going to entail the entire length of Main Street.”
The event will feature eight stages with non-stop entertainment “for all types of tastes,” he said.
“It’s going to have restaurants coming together to celebrate the tastes of Woonsocket and people will be able to have the food that makes Woonsocket great,” Fontaine said.
“We are going to have organizations that have been part of our history coming together to be a part of it and we are going to have Main Street celebrated for all the greatness that it is,” he said.
The event will be different from the Main Street Block Party that highlighted the city’s 100th anniversary 25 years ago in that it will run the whole length of Main Street from Market Square to the Stadium Theatre at Monument Square where the main stage of the eight planned will be set up.
“We’ve not only stretched it out but we are putting the main stage right here in front of the Stadium because we recognize as a city that arts are started here,” Fontaine said.
The celebration will also run to Market Square where organizations such as Riverz Edge are making their own contribution to the city’s growing offering of artistic opportunities, according to Fontaine.
A key decision already made in the planning process was to hold the celebration on a single night, rather that multiple day or week long offering, according to Mayor.
The single day approach will provide a better opportunity to strongly highlight the strengths of a city that can sometimes be overshadowed by the day to day concerns of running it, according to Fontaine.
“People were saying we can do a week-long celebration and we said `no-- one night,” Fontaine said. That decision led the planners to the slogan for Woonsocket’s 125th Anniversary Celebration, “one night, one event, one city,” Fontaine said.
“It is so easy to get caught up in the fight of the troubles that we are facing as a city,” Fontaine said. “But it is important that we recognize that we have a community that needs to pull together and I’m really looking forward to being able to have this celebration be that tipping point of people coming together and putting the troubles aside for a night and recognizing that there is a lot to celebrate,” he said.
As an example of the volunteerism already backing the event, Fontaine showed off an artistic creation by city artist Ron Deziel. The work appeared to be a 400-pound monument of bronze and stone stating “Woonsocket, For Love of City,” even though Fontaine could actually lift it with one hand.
He also thanked The Call’s publisher, Mary Lynn Bosiak, for quickly agreeing to join the organizers and commit to promotion of the community event. “We knew that to make this special we needed to bring The Call in as a partner because they have been a part of this community all that time,” Fontaine said.
The Call was “thrilled to be the daily newspaper from Woonsocket for more than 125 years ourselves,” Bosiak said. “And when the mayor called me and asked if we would be a part of this celebration, I said most definitely,” Bosiak said. “We are excited to be involved and we will do whatever we can to help,” she said.
The Call will be sponsoring the King’s Row band in the city’s Mullen Parking Lot in front of the newspaper as part of its contributions. The paper will also be organizing volunteers for the event and even preparing a photo book that will be provided to subscribers of 15 years or longer and made available for purchase, she said.
Fontaine said the celebration, running from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Aug. 29, will have multiple venues along Main Street and tie in the surrounding highlights of Main Street such as the Beacon Charter High School, which will host a large tent in the parking lot near Chan’s restaurant for at least a dozen city restaurants to offer their best foods
That area will also feature a “significant art piece” created with the help of Deziel and Albert Beauparlant, a volunteer in the city’s 100th Anniversary that will take several days to install.
Children’s amusements will be located on James Street and Cherry Street, and Railroad Street and open at 4 p.m.
The seven remaining stages will be situated at various locations along Main Street and include different types of bands and performers or highlight the area’s local talent from dance groups to singers.
A motorcycle show is planned in the parking lot of the Hospital Trust Building and the car show will be located from Market Square to Depot Square.
Down at Market Square, that area's restaurants, Vintage, Ye Olde English and River Falls will be encouraged to have outdoor seating and provide their menu offerings to a crowd listening to music in the central parking lot.
The first event to help raise funding for the celebration will be a birthday gathering put on by Ciro’s Restaurant on June 13, the actual day of the city’s incorporation, at Cherry Street, that will cost $10 per ticket, Fontaine said.
Matt Moylan of Ciro’s said he remembers the 100th Anniversary block party as an amazing event to this day and can even recall the headliner band, A Million Pictures, playing on Main Street. Ciro’s is a family-owned restaurant located in a 123-year-old building that has been undergoing renovations while the business also works to promote its neighborhood in the city, he said. Getting involved in the 125th Anniversary was “a natural fit” for Ciro’s, he said. “I believe this is the best time that we all can come together and work together and create this wonderful night,” Moylan said.
More details will be presented as the plans are refined and Fontaine said there is still time for city residents to make their own contributions by contacting his office at City Hall.