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Arts Festival kicks off with gala, ‘Taste of’

September 8, 2012

A team representing The Times (top of photo) was among 21 squads that participated Saturday in the Chinese Dragon Boat Races along the Blackstone River as part of the annual Pawtucket Arts Festival. Also pictured are the "Electric Dragons" (front), who won the heat, and the "RI Hash House Harriers." Photo/Ernest A. Brown

PAWTUCKET — Catherine Cabral, who just moved to Pawtucket last year, was happily enjoying a shrimp kabob, listening to the music and surveying the crowd along Roosevelt Avenue. “This is fun. And it’s a great way to get you to try food from different places. I thought I’d come and get to know Pawtucket.”
Indeed, the 14th annual Pawtucket Arts Festival Gala and “Taste of Pawtucket” event is a surefire way to get to know the city. Residents young and old, along with most department heads and elected officials, flock to the traditional food and music funfest that kicks off the three-week series of events that make up the Pawtucket Arts festival.
“Everything is going right to schedule, right to plan,” said a pleased John Baxter, Arts Festival chairman, as he stood in the middle of a crowded Roosevelt Avenue. “I think this is the smoothest opening we’ve had in the last few years. And I see a lot of smiling faces, which means there are no long waits at the food tents. There’s lots of food to eat and music to dance to.”
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien said, “As always, this is a great event. It’s fun, and of course, it helps promote the city. And there are a lot of people who work hard all year long to make this happen. They deserve a big thanks, along with the many businesses who contribute.”
Grebien’s wife, Laureen who works in human resources for Gregg’s Restaurant, was serving up Gregg’s desserts at a food tent along with the couple’s daughter, Alexa. She said the restaurant was offering apple crisp, biscotti, and slices of its new “Cake for a Cause” that benefits the Gloria Gemma breast cancer foundation.
Jack and Millie Smith, lifelong city residents for over 70 years, said they make it a point to come to the Gala for three reasons: the food, the music and to run into old friends. “We always meet a lot of people who we haven’t seen in years here,” said Jack.
Lance Hill, the city’s Public Works director, had to supervise all of the employees who set up the tents, electrical power and other structural needs. As he was hired last November, this was the first time that he and his wife, Karen, and children, Meghan and Ryan, got to see the opening night events in full swing. “It takes a lot of planning. I know there are people who work on this all year long. But it’s great,” he said.
State Rep. Mary Duffy Messier said she has come to the festival gala “every year since it first began with Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and his wife, Kristine. And I enjoy it every year. It gives you a chance to sample a lot of foods from different restaurants. And to try things you maybe wouldn’t normally try.”

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