NEWS

'Going big' with the Gaspee Days Parade

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 4/28/21

By JOHN HOWELL Ready for a parade? A parade like you have known in years past, with the Mummers, the Clydesdales, the fife and drums, the canons, the Shriners in their little cars, the bands, the Scouts - and, of course, the elected officials? The Gaspee

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NEWS

'Going big' with the Gaspee Days Parade

Posted

Ready for a parade? A parade like you have known in years past, with the Mummers, the Clydesdales, the fife and drums, the canons, the Shriners in their little cars, the bands, the Scouts – and, of course, the elected officials?

The Gaspee Days Committee is going for the full show.

“The outpouring of support has been overwhelming,” said Gina Dooley, committee chair. She is “very optimistic” of reaching a fundraising goal of $50,000, and based on the governor’s lifting of restrictions on outdoor gatherings as of May 28, the committee “went big.”

Initially, the committee envisioned a scaled-back parade for Saturday, June 12, with a reduced budget of $35,000 without some of the bigger-ticket participants like the Mummers and the Clydesdales.

It was a long shot.

While there was a strong response to a GoFundMe appeal, raising $11,000 in a couple of weeks, the committee was far from raising what is needed for even an abbreviated parade. In addition to paying groups to being in the parade, the committee was faced with $5,000 to paint the red, white and blue stripe for the parade route and the cost of police details and portable toilets.

Dooley met with Warwick Mayor Frank Picozzi to spell out the situation. Unless they could raise the $35,000, even a shorter version of the parade would have to be canceled. In prior years, the Arts & Crafts Festival held over Memorial Day weekend raised the lion’s share of the $50,000 for the parade. Because of the pandemic, the committee postponed this year’s festival to September.

Picozzi had his media director Liz Tufts shoot a video of Dooley outlining he precarious nature of the parade that posted on the city and Warwick Beacon websites, as well as social media. That was shared thousands of times. GoFundMe donations picked up. The Warwick Beacon and Cranston Herald launched a campaign to give $20 of every new subscription to the drive. Individual donations came in, and then some major commitments arrived.

An anonymous donor pledged $10,000. Navigant Credit Union donated $5,000, and state Rep. Joseph McNamara talked of a $10,000 legislative grant.

Last week in a conference call, the committee voted to go with the full parade.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” Dooley said. “We threw all caution to the wind and went for the bigger parade.”

The committee hasn’t abandoned all caution.

For the moment, Dooley said, the committee is keeping the 5K road race held the morning of the parade a virtual event.

As of Monday, the GoFundMe had raised slightly more than $23,000 and Dooley was waiting for pledges to come in. She said she also needs to check now that outdoor gathering restrictions are being eased whether the parade requires state approval.

Since the governor’s announcement Thursday, the committee is also looking into doing a “one-day something” on Saturday, May 29, to maintain a Gaspee Day activity on Memorial Day weekend. Dooley suggested it could be a food and music event in Pawtuxet Park.

The burning of the Gaspee in Pawtuxet Cove customarily brings the Gaspee Days celebration to a close the day after the parade. This year, it is planned to follow the parade.

“If we’re drawing a crowd, we’re doing it all in one day,” Dooley said.

“What’s heartwarming is that the community really loves this parade,” she said.

Gaspee, parade

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