By JACOB MARROCCO Gina Dooley said she felt like the "e;Grinch that stole Gaspee Days,"e; but she knew the right call was being made. Dooley, who serves as president of the Gaspee Days Committee, said Tuesday that the decision to cancel all Gaspee Days
Gina Dooley said she felt like the “Grinch that stole Gaspee Days,” but she knew the right call was being made.
Dooley, who serves as president of the Gaspee Days Committee, said Tuesday that the decision to cancel all Gaspee Days events in 2020 – a move without precedent – was a “devastating” one to make.
The festivities, which have been held annually for 55 years, are the latest event forced to postpone or cancel as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The committee announced its decision through a social media message on Sunday, and the cancellation includes all aspects of this year’s celebration – including the Arts and Crafts Festival, Road Race and Parade.
“It is with a heavy heart that the Committee announces the cancellation of our 2020 celebration,” the committee’s message reads. “The work of our Gaspee Days Committee volunteers will continue and we will be back in full force in 2021 … The Gaspee Days Committee joins all Rhode Islanders in sending a thank you to all essential workers who are keeping RI moving.”
The message also notes that 2022 will mark the 250th anniversary of the burning of the H.M.S. Gaspee.
Dooley said the parade has been canceled on a few occasions in the past because of heavy rain, but there has never before been a complete cancellation of all festivities.
She said the committee was originally going to wait until May 1 to make decision, following the daily updates from Gov. Gina Raimondo and the White House. She said the “nail in the coffin” was when Raimondo extended social distancing guidelines throughout the month of April.
“We still didn't want to call it,” Dooley said. “We knew the Arts and Crafts Festival wasn’t going to happen because that’s in May. The fundraising we make at the Arts and Crafts Festival is what pays off the parade. With [the festival] gone, we can’t pay for the parade because we can’t afford to have it … We just didn't see any way we would be able to do it. I would love to say, ‘Let’s cancel the Arts and Crafts Festival and just have the parade,’ but without one we can’t have the other.”
Dooley said the parade costs approximately $50,000 to put on, and the Arts and Crafts Festival, Block Party, food court and other associated features of the celebration reel in about that much in fundraising.
The vote to cancel was unanimous, Dooley said, despite some initial debate over the past week.
“We debated back and forth via email. It was difficult because we couldn’t meet in person,” she said. “I think the deciding factor for me was when they extended the social distancing through April, and that there we were never going to able to get 35,000 or 40,000 people together a few weeks after that. The last thing we want people to think is that we don’t care and that’s absolutely not the case.”
Dooley said she reached out to Warwick Mayor Joseph Solomon, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and Rep. Joseph McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), and they all agreed that the tough call was the right one.
“We all agreed that it was the prudent thing to do,” she said. “Ultimately we want to have safe events, we don't want people getting sick at our events and this is how we came about deciding … the safety of our communities comes first.”
Dooley said it’s too early to know whether the pandemic would impact autumn events, such as the second installment of the Gaspee Fallout. She said the gathering was successful last year, and by this October people could use some fun if some sense of normalcy has been restored.
“Hopefully things will be back to order. I think the community would appreciate us trying to do something this year,” Dooley said. “Everybody knows this was heartbreaking for us to do this. It was pretty successful, so we’d like to do something, but we probably won’t know if we can for another month or so or two.”