September 30, 2012

Water Fire in Providence, RI

Saturday morning we took a short 45 minute drive to Providence, the capitol of Rhode Island. Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States. It is only 48 miles tall and 37 miles long, with a total area of 1,214 square miles (just for comparison purposes, Arkansas is 53, 179 sq. miles!). And this TINY state was the 24th state for us to visit on this trip.

Providence was founded in 1636. It is the third largest city in New England, which is surprising given the small size of its home state. Our first impression of the city was that it felt somewhat European. I’m not really sure what drove that feeling. It could have been the chilly fall air (in my mind Europe is in a constant state of fall), the architecture, or the amount of people walking around the downtown. As opposed to Rochester, where there was almost no one in the downtown, Providence was bustling. There were students walking around, families with children, and couples strolling hand in hand. There were also lots of homeless folks milling about.

A city view of Providence, Rhode Island
Providence, RI
We stopped at a visitor’s center to pick up a map of the city, and were asked if we were in town for the Water Fire. Eh? Sure? Turns out we picked a good day to come to the city! That evening more than 80 bonfires were going to be lit on the river that runs through downtown, part of an urban art installation. This was the 9th event in 2012, of the 10 scheduled. These events are quite popular, and lots of folks flock to the city to see the lighting ceremonies. That’s most likely why we saw so many pedestrians that day.

The Water Fire was due to start at sunset, so we picked out a walking route to see the rest of the city in the meantime. We walked up the hill to see the State Capitol. For the next few hours we wandered on Wickenden street, around the Brown University campus, on the Riverwalk, and on Westminster street.

Rhode Island state capitol building in Providence
Providence State Capitol building
Downtown Providence preparing for the Water Fire show on the water canals
Bonfire bundles ready for lighting
for the Water Fire Ceremony
Walking on Westminster street in Providence, Rhode Island
On Westminster Street
A cool building facade in Providence, Rhode Island
A neat building facade in Providence
We grabbed an early dinner in the Federal Hill district, also known as Little Italy. 3000 calories and an hour later we finished up our yummy seafood linguine meal and set off to watch the lighting of the bonfires.

Little Italy on Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island
On Federal Hill
Views while walking around Providence, Rhode Island
Near Prospect Park
A bell tower on the Brown University campus in Providence, Rhode Island
On Brown University campus
We walked up just as dusk was settling in and the last light of the day was disappearing into the clouds. People were crowded on the sidewalks along the river. Boats of fire-tenders floated by quietly, setting fire to bouquets of seasoned split wood. As each blaze came alive, more faces of the onlookers were illuminated. The smell of wood fire rose in the air; the fires crackled and shot sparks into the evening sky. Hidden speakers came on and started playing Gaelic music. The aural and visual sensations evoked a very prehistoric mood. I felt like we were part of a tribal congregation, getting ready to do our ancestral dance.

The Water Fire urban art exhibit in Providence, Rhode Island
Crackling bonfires
The Water Fire urban art exhibit in downtown Providence, Rhode Island
Water Fire in Providence
After a while we made our way over to City Hall Park. We’d heard that a dance troop was going to perform on the outside of a downtown high-rise. We joined a town square full of spectators craning their necks, and watched as three dancers belayed themselves from the roof to the 30th story windows.

Fountain in City Hall Park in downtown Providence, Rhode Island
Fountain in City Hall Park
Bandaloop performing in downtown Providence, Rhode Island during Water Fire
The Bandaloop dance troop performing in Providence
The Bandaloop troop performed a full dance recital, suspended above thin air with only their climbing ropes. They danced right on the windows, sometimes leaping horizontally up to 20 feet away from the sides of the building, doing pirouettes and flips. There were three distinct performances, and all were spectacular. We had never seen a vertical dance recital before, and it was a treat, especially since we got to see it for free! Here is a short video I shot from the park:

We really enjoyed our time in Providence. It was especially nice that we could drive there in the morning, and still make it back to our “home” in Massachusetts by the same night. This was a good start to our month long vacation in New England!

To see more pictures of Providence, click here.

Happy Water Fire sightseeing,


Email me

No comments:

Post a comment