By ROB DUGUAY When Proclamation Ale Company proprietor and co-founder Dave Witham passed away from cancer on Christmas Day last year, it shook Rhode Island's craft beer industry to its core. It left the brewery without its face and the community without
When Proclamation Ale Company proprietor and co-founder Dave Witham passed away from cancer on Christmas Day last year, it shook Rhode Island’s craft beer industry to its core. It left the brewery without its face and the community without one of its most vocal supporters.
When folks used to come check out the brewery’s home base at 298 Kilvert St. in Warwick to drink, socialize and play arcade games, Witham would be there doing various give-aways or having contestants try their luck at Plinko. He also used his creative spirit to keep Proclamation’s business alive during the COVID-19 pandemic by adapting former Gov. Gina Raimondo’s famous phrase – “Knock it off!” – as the name of an ale in collaboration with the gift shop Frog & Toad in Providence, which drove sales of over 200 cases a day.
Ever since his passing, Witham’s spirit has definitely been missed, but the brewery he helped start is celebrating him on Saturday, July 24, starting at noon.
The event is called Daveapalooza and it’s happening at Proclamation’s home base, with live music, lobster, skateboarding and, of course, beer. It’s the proper way to celebrate Witham’s life, an event that wasn’t possible when COVID-19 was still a major obstacle for any sort of social gathering this past winter.
“We are throwing this event as a way to celebrate Dave’s life and legacy,” said Dave’s wife, Lori, who is the current owner of the brewery. “Due to COVID-19, we weren’t able to do any kind of memorial after he passed away this winter, so we thought why not throw a fun celebration now that we can safely be outside together? Dave would never have wanted a sad and somber memorial where everyone quietly stands around. The only fitting way to celebrate his life is by joining together beer, live music, a skate ramp, food and a whole lot of friends. We will have collaboration beers with Civil Skate Shop, which has three locations in East Greenwich, Providence and Westerly, and Highroller Lobster Company from Portland, Maine.”
She added: “They will be alongside our other beers and guest taps from Bissell Brothers in Maine, Vitamin Sea in Massachusetts and Kent Falls and Fox Farm which are both in Connecticut. We will have a half pipe up for seasoned skateboarders. We will have food from Highroller as well as local vendors with Our Table serving BBQ, Sunnyside serving sandwiches, The Wright Scoop serving ice cream and Lulu's Little Pancakes serving dessert pancakes. Last, but not least, we’ll have live music from some of Dave’s former bands and best friends.”
Witham was also part of the local music community as a music teacher along with being a member of the Providence hip-hop band Symmetry. The band will be performing along with frontman Mike Slap doing a set and the B-52’s tribute act B-Hive will open up the music at 2 p.m. DJ Loeki is going to be on the 1’s and 2’s filling the gap in between performances.
“Dave will always be someone who means a lot to me, and his friendship has had a big impact on me,” Symmetry drummer Alex Chapman said about the upcoming event. “I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m sure that many other people who knew him feel the same way. Even as our lives went in different directions over time, he was still a hilarious, insightful and supportive friend to me. Reuniting with Symmetry will be a blast because they are some of my best friends. I’m excited that we’ll be playing together again, but it’s also bittersweet when I remember the reason why we’ll be there.”
He added: “When I think about how they put the day together, it strikes me that everything will be all about having fun. Even though Dave will be remembered as someone who was seriously devoted to his family, friends, and his crafts such as brewing and music, I think that most of us will above all else remember him as someone who loved to have fun. That’s the guy that I remember. We’re all very lucky if we get to have someone like Dave in our lives. I’m just happy that I was fortunate enough to have him in mine, and that I get to help his family and the brewery in the small way that I can.”
Daveapalooza is free and all ages but you need to be 21-plus to drink for obvious reasons. Anyone who shows up to skate must be vetted and they have to sign a waiver for the purpose of safety and liability. Even if you didn’t know Witham, you probably had one of the beers he came up with the idea for. Spend your Saturday afternoon by making a stop at 298 Kilvert St. in Warwick for a celebration of a guy who always sought out the fun in life.