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Gaspee Days


Celebrating 85 years of colonial tradition

2 • Gaspee Days • May 2013


The Taste of Summer Has Arrived!

Gaspee Days 2013

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Gaspee Days • May 2013 • 3

Upholding Tradition By MEG FRASER

A blues festival, an open house, fundraisers, a walking tour, arts and crafts, a block party, colonial encampments, a road race, fireworks, a special WaterFire, an ecumenical service and 48 years of parades. The to-do list of the Gaspee Days Committee is long, but it is tackled by a group of volunteers dedicated to highlighting the history, tradition and sense of community in their part of the world. “Our volunteers are very special; they’re very dedicated to Gaspee. It’s a special little place,” said Publicity Chair Erin Flynn. According to his personal journals, George Washington celebrated the Gaspee affair in 1774. While celebrations have not been consistent since then, modern Rhode Islanders have made a point of observing the act of patriotism and its significance in the Revolution. The Gaspee Days Committee was formally established in 1965 by David Stackhouse, and the first modern parade took place the following year. Ever since, the celebration of this historic occasion has captured our attention. The Gaspee Days Committee meets monthly for most of the year, adding additional meetings as May and June, the heart of the

celebrations, near. There are roughly 40 members, who come to Gaspee for a variety of reasons. “It’s a variety of things; for a lot of people it’s history, for some people it’s community involvement, for some people it’s how to meet your neighbors,” Flynn said. “Everybody sees the importance of keeping the magic, that special feeling we have in the village.” Flynn also says the committee will accept any contribution of time, no matter how small. “We’re very lucky in that we have this category that we joke about called Gaspee elves, which are folks that help and volunteer but don’t necessarily come to every meeting,” she said. And that’s fine for the committee. They need one-day and even single-task volunteers for each fundraiser, all of which support the annual parade, a $45,000 endeavor that is a cornerstone for tourism in R.I. All of the events, all of the efforts, are what make Gaspee what it is - a story that transcends time and engages a community. “We’re celebrating a moment in history,” Flynn said. “It makes our community better.” For more information, e-mail, call 781-1772 or visit, or find them at or on Twitter @GaspeeDay.

“Everybody sees the importance of keeping the magic, that special feeling we have in the village.” - Erin Flynn

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Rhode Island’s chapter in history


In history books, the Gaspee affair is paid little attention. Sandwiched between the Boston Massacre of 1770 and the Boston Tea Party of 1773, its significance to the American Revolution is largely overlooked. Most Americans and even many Rhode Islanders are ignorant of that evening in 1772 when a group of men led by Abraham Whipple and John Brown attacked the British customs schooner, the HMS Gaspee. But in the area of Warwick and Cranston, the incident is as significant as any in the story of America’s quest for independence. “This goes back to getting Americans to think of the need for independence from the mother country because of the infringement of the British authorities on rights that were awarded all Englishmen,” said Dr. John Concannon, webmaster for and member of the Gaspee Days Committee. “That is one of the essential rights of being a citizen of any country - to be treated fairly when you’re accused of a crime.” In the case of Gaspee, that crime was smuggling. The HMS Gaspee, under the command of Lt. William Dudingston, was sent to Rhode Island by King George III to enforce trade laws. In particular, Rhode Island was suspected of trading with enemy France to sustain the demands for rum,

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Gaspee Days • May 2013 • 5 according to University of Connecticut Professor Dr. Steven Park, the Gaspee Days Committee’s guest historian who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the incident. On June 9, 1771, the Hannah left Newport for Providence, but the HMS Gaspee stood in its way. When the Gaspee gave chase, Hannah’s Captain Lindsey lured the larger boat over a sandbar, trapping them, and reported the incident back to John Brown. Brown and his fellow patriots met at Sabin’s Tavern to discuss a plan, and under Whipple’s direction, they rowed longboats out to the schooner, shot and wounded Lt. Dudingston and took the crew prisoner, killing no one. The ship was burned, and despite efforts by the crown, the culprits were never turned in. Park believes the motives that night were simple. “They claimed they were taking things from the Gaspee in retribution for the seizure of Jacob Greene’s rum. If you were able to talk to the men in Sabin’s Tavern that night … they were trying to settle local scores.” While Rhode Islanders call the incident “the first blow for freedom,” Park says that might be overstating things. Still, he hopes that Gaspee someday gets the attention it deserves as a historical event. “It is Rhode Island’s claim to fame,” he said. “When you look through a history textbook, whenever they say New England, they really mean Massachusetts and whenever they say Massachusetts, they really mean Boston. Maybe the Gaspee will still get its day.”


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6 • Gaspee Days • May 2013

Man in white led parade for 21 years By JOHN HOWELL

Gerald Goldstein still has the white suit that made him a Gaspee parade standout. The suit must fit, too, for after all these years, Gerry hasn’t changed. You can count on Gerry. It’s that quality that earned him the privilege of carrying the mace that reportedly is made from wood recovered after the burning of the Gaspee in 1772. “I’m going to have to incriminate someone,” Gerry says with a laugh when asked how he came to lead the parade for 21 years and how he got to carry the mace. Now 85, Gerry, who served as the Warwick Ward 1 councilman for 16 years, tells the story carefully, leaving out names. He didn’t incriminate a soul. The mace is privately owned and was loaned for the parade on condition that its owners remained anonymous and that it was promptly returned. That worked for a brief period, but when the mace wasn’t returned until its owners made calls, they refused to loan it. Gerry didn’t want to see a tradition lost. He visited the owners and told them he would be personally responsible for its care and return. “I made a contract with them that I would pick it up before the parade and bring it back the same day.” It worked. The owners – Gerry still honors their request not to be identified – put their trust in Gerry. Gerry kept his word and became, for lack of another word,

Submitted photo

Gerry Goldstein charts a course for the Gaspee Day Parade in his signature white suit.

the official keeper of the mace. When the mace was used for official events, such as inaugural ceremonies for Gov. Lincoln Almond, Gerry brought it to the State House and didn’t leave it out of his sight until it was returned. In that instance, Gerry said, the high sheriff carried the short staff that has a purple ribbon tied around its base.

Gerry became friends with the owners of the mace and would deliver vegetables from his garden and drop by for occasional visits. Gerry’s wife, Joan, even played a role. She made a ribbon to replace what “looked like an old rag.” As for his distinctive white suit, Gerry doesn’t recall what prompted him to wear it. “It was a little outlandish that was the idea,” he said. The suit was always spotless, which isn’t surprising as Gerry ran the former Town and Country Cleaners at Hoxsie Four Corners. Gerry recalled those times when it poured and he wore a rain coat and there was one year when he wore a colonial outfit. It didn’t last. He went back to the white suit. He also remembers the Gaspee Days clambakes at Salter Grove, the many friends he got the see along the parade route and the walk back that always took longer because of all the parties along Narragansett Parkway. When it came time to retire, Gerry vouched for Milton Wrath who assumed the role of the mace bearer. Now living in Cranston, Gerry keeps tabs on Gaspee events. Earlier this year when a painting duel between Mayors Scott Avedisian and Allan Fung was arranged in Pawtuxet to raise $5,000 to paint the red, white and blue stripe down the middle of the parkway, Gerry was there. He made a contribution, too. Being the diplomat and having lived in both communities, not to mention leading the parade in both cities, he split the donation between the competing teams.

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8 • Gaspee Days • May 2013


139 Ocean Avenue, Cranston, RI 02905

Gaspee Days Ecumenical Service Trinity Episcopal Church Saturday, June 8, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.

Join your neighbors, the Pawtuxet Rangers and the West Bay Chorale in prayer and song. Dogs in training for the Canines for Combat Veterans Program will also be present.

Pancake Breakfast-7 a.m.- 10 (Before and After Service)


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history alive

Gaspee Days • May 2013 • 9

Checking with us is a With the seeds of Revolution planted in the late 18th century, the Pawtuxet Rangers, or the Second Independent Company for the County of Kent, were chartered by the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations on Oct. 29, 1774 to protect the village of Pawtuxet. More than 200 years later, Pawtuxet is under no threat, but the Rangers continue to march the village streets during Gaspee Days each year. The unit was re-activated in 1972. The parade had already been established as an annual tradition, and the Gaspee Days Committee was in search of a local fife and drum corps. Two years later, in 1974, the Pawtuxet Rangers militia company was E-mail the fife and formed, and or visit drums corps was later integrated with the litia. Today, the Pawtuxet Rangers are among the oldest chartered commands in the country, still operating under the original charter of 1774. The company includes a color guard, musket line and artillery, and the fife and drums corps. The Rangers are always looking for new members. Annual dues are $25 per year, and students join for free through college. Militia members must be 18 or older, though fife and drum applicants can join at 16. The Pawtuxet Rangers meet every Wednesday at the Remington Street Armory at 8 p.m., and participate in parades, encampments, battles and ceremonial functions throughout the year. For more information on getting involved, e-mail pawtuxetrangers@ or visit

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10 • Gaspee Days • May 2013

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Gaspee affairs Memorial Day Weekend Arts and Crafts Festival

Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Monday, May 27 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Narragansett Parkway in Warwick The annual Arts and Crafts Festival attracts people from all over R.I. for three days of browsing and purchasing the wares of the approximately 100 craft exhibitors along Narragansett Parkway in Warwick. All while this is going on, there is a professional food court, free family music, entertainment and rides for the children located in Pawtuxet Park. Live music in the park each day from 1 to 4 p.m.

Block Party Fundraiser May 25, 6 to 11 p.m. Aspray Boat House and Patio, Pawtuxet Park Entry fee $5, Proof of age required PLEASE, NO CHILDREN Come on in and enjoy the beer, music and neighborhood camaraderie alongside Pawtuxet Cove.





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June 7, 8 and 9 in Pawtuxet Park in Warwick. Open for people to walk through and visit life in 1772. The Encampment gives visitors a feel for colonial military life. Dozens of Militia camp out for the weekend in authentic Revolutionary style. Hosted by the Pawtuxet Rangers, RIM.

Gaspee Days Fireworks 738-7200 826-0100 475-6900 860-376-4400

Prior sales excluded. While supplies last; some items are limited quantities. Not responsible for typographical errors. Merchandise may not exactly match photos shown. All items are not available in each store.

June 7 at Salters Grove in Warwick at dusk. Sponsored by the City of Warwick Department of Tourism, Culture and Development. In the event of rain, the fireworks will be held on June 8.

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Mayor Avedisian and the Warwick Tourism Department are pleased to support this year’s Gaspee Days Events!

Your guide for everything to do, eat and see in Warwick Rhode Island!


Ecumenical Service June 8 at 8 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, located at 139 Ocean Avenue in Cranston. Non-denominational service with music by the West Bay Chorus.

Alan & Edna Brown Road Race The race starts on Broad Street in Cranston at 9:45 a.m. on June 8. This statewide event has grown to become one of the great runs in New England, as participants compete in front of the crowds assembled for the Gaspee Days Parade. Register online at

48th Annual Gaspee Days Parade

Gaspee Days • May 2013 • 13

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June 8 starting at 10 a.m. Parade runs along Narragansett Parkway into Cranston ending at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet. The parade features more than a dozen Colonial fife and drum corps as well as Civil War era units, modern day drum and bugle corps and the Mummers.


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Saturday, Sunday & Monday


Sunday in the Park

New Summ Menuer

On June 9, Pawtuxet Park in Warwick will be taken over from noon to 3 Beautiful Views of the Cove p.m. for music and relaxation for Gaspee friends and family. Please bring your own picnic. The Colonial Encampment will be open to visit.

Burning of the HMS Gaspee

Ending the Gaspee Days Festivities, the symbolic burning of the ship that sparked the American Revolution will take place on June 9 at 4 p.m.

Mark your calendar for

“Music in the Park”

Thursdays 6-8PM beginning in July through August Sponsored by O’Rourke’s Bar & Grill



Information on any of these events can be obtained by going to the Gaspee Days website at, checking the Gaspee Days Facebook page or by calling 781-1772. Committee meetings are held the first Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the Aspray Boat House in Pawtuxet and new members are welcome.

Beautiful Views of the Cove Available for Special Functions Darcy O’Rourke, Event Coordinator


Historic Pawtuxet Village

14 • Gaspee Days • May 2013



Fo rgi ng a path to the pas t


Wyman Elementary School helped kick off this year’s Gaspee Days celebration last Saturday with the 13th annual Walking Tour of Historic Pawtuxet Village, which took place immediately after the official proclamation of the celebration.“It is really special to [the students] to be the first event, kicking off Gaspee Days,” said Celeste Comeau-Mullane, co-coordinator of the event and member of the Wyman Elementary School PTA. More than 75 elementary students volunteer to portray residents of colonial Pawtuxet Village, dressed in period-appropriate attire, turning the area into what ComeauMullane calls a “living museum” for the afternoon. Tours take visitors to 16 historical homes and sites in New England’s oldest village. Pilgrim High School students and parent volunteers lead the tours, providing background and historical details for those who were not familiar with the area. Along the tour, the elementary students greet visitors and perform a short skit to show what life would have been like in the village when it was founded in 1638. Tour stops include the school, bank, blacksmith, graveyard and the Pawtuxet Rangers Armory.



Music also plays a part in the event, with volunteers and students volunteering to sing and perform songs for the crowd. Over the years, the tour has been refined into a historically accurate and well-detailed experience. Comeau-Mullane explained that participation is voluntary, and students meet to practice once a week for six weeks prior to the tours. They also hear special presentations from or-

ganizations such as the Pawtuxet Rangers and Old Sturbridge Village. “We want them to have a good sense of colonial history,” said Comeau-Mullane. “It is theater and history-based.” Students in grades three through six from Wyman participate, as well as fifth graders from St. Peter School. Students from Aldrich Junior High School and Pilgrim volunteer as well.

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16 • Gaspee Days • May 2013

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