WOONSOCKET – Tammy Shea, 34, of Woonsocket really didn’t know what a scaffolding structure was doing on either side of Main Street Wednesday, but she was curious about it.
So were her children as the family walked past it on the sidewalk opposite the Stadium Theatre at Monument Square.
“I don’t even know what it is,” Shea said when told the work site was part of the city’s upcoming 125th Anniversary Block Party celebration on Aug. 29.
The scaffolding will become a highlight piece of art work for the bash-- a partial recreation of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe with some local flavor added — that will serve as a “gateway” to the city’s Main Street celebration running from Monument Square to Market Square at the other end of the city’s onetime premiere business district.
The arch still had not crossed over Main Street next to the city’s Civil War monument as of Wednesday but could reach that point of construction by the end of this week.
When told about the recreated monument Main Street Block Party organizer Albert G. Beauparlant and local artist Ron Deziel have envisioned as the celebration’s keystone, Shea’s daughter, Sierra, 14, said she has learned about the Arc in France through history books at school and is looking forward to going to the block party to see it completed. The Aug. 29 city celebration will be held the day after school resumes in the city but that won’t keep Sierra from attending, she added.
“I have lots of friends and we like to go out and do stuff during the summer,” she said.
Her mom also plans to bring the rest of her children to the event. “I think that it is a great idea and I do think Woonsocket needs something to liven this city up a bit,” she said.
Stopping to check out the work site late Wednesday afternoon, Dennis Tancrell, the Stadium Theatre’s building and maintenance director, said he was surprised by the size of the structure.
“I think it is going to be amazing,” Tancrell said. “I think it has a potential to be a crowning artistic achievement of the whole Block Party,” he said.
The arch be created by stretching canvas material over the supporting scaffolding and then painted to appear as the Arc de Triomphe with the addition of mural panels depicting scenes of Woonsocket’s history and great successes.
Deziel, who has completed many large mural projects, include one of marine mammals on the exterior of a building off the Southeast expressway in Boston, will be helped by a team of local artists to get the work done on time for Aug. 29.
Beauparlant said winds on Wednesday put the project on a brief hiatus but that work would resume today. “We are just at 35 feet now and will be going up to 75 feet,” Beauparlant said of the work. The project is being created completely through private donations and volunteer elbow grease.
Once the arch is made over Main Street, the canvas work will begin and people should soon be able to recognize what the artisans are creating, he said.
When completed, the arch will represent a fitting starting point for celebration that will include 12 performance stages, 28 scheduled performing acts, rides for the kids and a car show and motorcycle show that will top any that have been held on Main Street previously.
“This will be the largest Block Party ever to be held on the East Coast,” Beauparlant promised.
Jeffrey Burlingame, a local firefighter and the son of the late city state Representative Barbara C. Burlingame, said he though the block party to be a good idea while looking over the still growing arch on Main Street.
“I guess anything we can do to celebrate our city’s history is always a step in the right direction,” he said. Burlingame also point out a lesson learned from his own mother’s political career while noting the event comes during an election year. “I know a lot of politicians will be there,” he said.