WOONSOCKET – If you haven’t practiced your two-step in a while, the time to brush up is now.
The Main Street Block Party, just two days away, will feature a dozen stages with different kinds of music going on all at once, and there’s sure to be something for everyone to dance to.
“It’s a potpourri of musical performances, from big band to oldies and jazz to rhythm and blues,” said Albert G. Beauparlant Jr., co-chairman of the event. “From 60s music to contemporary, there’s something for everybody.”
Billed as the biggest block party on the East Coast, the one-night-only event is Mayor Leo T. Fontaine’s way of celebrating the 125th anniversary of the founding of Woonsocket. Music, food, children’s attractions and, lest we forget, a giant mockup of Paris’s Arc de Triomphe, are all a part of what Beauparlant says will be a brief but grand celebration of the city’s past – and future.
“Don’t miss it because it’s just one night,” he says.
Opening rites begin at the Arc de Triomphe, in Monument Square, at 6:35 p.m., but several bands will already be performing before them. A few local speakers, including city officials and organizers of the block party, will make brief comments during this bit of ceremonial frill, but just to add a little celebrity flair, Steve Aveson, a NECN news personality, has signed on to emcee the affair, according to Beauparlant.
It will be easy enough for everyone to swing through the big bash, thanks to Bill Legare of Valley Transportation. He’s dispatching two shuttle buses, including one that’s wheelchair-accessible, to accommodate partygoers. The buses will pick up passengers and drop them off at the following locations on the fringes of the festival, repeating the loop at 15-minute intervals through midnight:
• Woonsocket Middle School, two stops, one at the entrance to the Hamlet Avenue building, another at the Florence Drive terminus of the Kendrick Avenue Foot Bridge.
• St. Ann Arts & Cultural Center parking lot
• Castle Luncheonette on Social Street
• Federal and Worrall streets, at the rear entrance to Woonsocket Post Office
• Hanora-Lippitt Apartments, rear lot near the traffic light at the Truman Bypass
• Front Street and Hamlet Avenue, in front of the old Woonsocket courthouse
“We’ve tried to accommodate the high-rises as much as possible,” said Beauparlant. “The idea was also to make it easier for people to get from one end of the party to the other. If someone is in Monument Square and they want to go to the stage in Market Square, they don’t have to walk a half-mile, they can take the bus.”
Perhaps the most famous name on the playlist will be that of bluesman James Montgomery, a veteran recording artist who’ll be appearing with a funky group from New York called the Uptown Horns. They’ve played alongside some of the biggest names in rock and rhythm ‘n’ blues, from Aerosmith to the Blues Brothers.
They’ll be appearing on Stage 12, in front of the Stadium Theatre, 28 Monument Square, from 7-10:30 p.m.
But live tunes get underway on several other stages at 5:30 p.m., including Stage 1 in Market Square with the Meadow-Larks, a 12-member big band specializing in music from the swing era. They’ll be among the first to go live and play until 9:30 p.m.
The rest of the schedule is as follows:
• Stage No 2, 20 Main St., Jeff Gamache &
Runaway Train, country music, 6-9:30 p.m.
• Stage No. 3, 60 Main St., Rough N Ready, popular music from the 1970s, 6-9:30 p.m.
• Stage No. 4, 90 Main St., Kings Row, classic oldies, 6-8 p.m.
• Stage No. 5, City Hall, 169 Main St., Rising Stars and New Force Steppers, marching and dance music, 6-9:15 p.m.
• Stage No. 7, 210 Main St., near the old train depot, French music. Organizers will still firming up an act as of press time.
• Stage No. 8, 267 Main St. Niteflies, a local rock band, 6:30-9:45 p.m.
• Stage No. 9, 280 Main St., near Cato Street, Berkeley School of Boston Jazz Band, 5:30-9:30 p.m.
• Stage No. 10, 320 Main St., near Church Street, Berkeley School of Boston Rhythm & Blues Band, 5:30-9:30 p.m.
• Stage No. 11, also known as Stage of the Arts, Federal and Main Streets. Ten different acts, many local, featuring dance and music, 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Though extravagant, the block party is operating on a tight budget that has been entirely underwritten by corporate sponsors and public donations raised during a series of preliminary fundraising parties that have been going on weekly for more than a month. Beauparlant says the budget for entertainment was under $30,000.
He said that many of the bands were available only because the block party takes place on a weekday when there’s a low demand for bookings in clubs and other venues.
“If it were a Friday night, we’d probably be blown out of the water,” he says. “Maybe we could have gotten three of the dozen because they would have been booked.”