PAWTUCKET — With the winners of its annual Photo Contest announced on Sunday, the 2013 Pawtucket Arts Festival wrapped up another successful year, said event chairman John Baxter.
“For the third year in a row, we were blessed with extraordinary weather, and it contributed to record crowds,” Baxter stated. “The Arts Festival seems to grow incrementally every year.”
He estimated that a total of around 30,000 people came to the city to enjoy one event or another, with the Slater Park Fall Festival and the Rhode Island Philharmonic “Pops in the Park” drawing higher attendance than ever before.
While one of this year’s biggest events, the lighting ceremony and block party for the new Pawtucket River Bridge, was a one-time occurrence, Baxter said there is a lot of momentum established now from the month-long series of events that keeps both people, and sponsors, coming back.
“Nobody does what we do — four weekends of events. There’s lots going on,” he said.
Baxter said that several “fringe” events have been added in the past few years, such as Sunday night’s Aurea concert of classical music and poetry readings at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, along with the earlier performances of Opera Providence’s “Pirates of Penzance” and tours of TEN 31’s performance artists studio. These smaller shows, centered around the bigger weekend events, help draw new patrons who might not have thought about the Pawtucket Arts Festival before.
Baxter said the only event that was lightly attended this year compared to past years was Rocktucket, although he noted that the musical lineup had to compete with several other activities on that date, including a concert at The Met by the popular band Steve Smith & the Nakeds.
Baxter said he knows the fall is a busy time of year in Rhode Island, and the Pawtucket Arts Festival is competing with events in many nearby communities. However, he said his goal is to start planning next year’s festival even earlier so other communities are scheduling their events around it. “Our goal is to plant our flag about certain events on certain weekends,” he said, “although it’s next to impossible to prepare for conflicting events.”
Baxter noted that the Cowsills were a big hit with local audiences, and said he’d like to bring them back for a repeat performance.
He said he would also like to try to get more musicians and performers who are involved with the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame — either inductees or upcoming ones — to appear at Slater Park.
Baxter said he does not have the final figures on how much money the 2013 Pawtucket Arts Festival generated, but said he believes it will be an adequate amount to keep the event going for next year.
“It’s an event that’s growing, so there will be more opportunity for sponsorship,” he stated. The Pawtucket Teachers Alliance has already committed once again to sponsor the Rhode Island Philharmonic “Pops in the Park” in 2014.
As to the 2013 Pawtucket Arts Festival, the winners were announced at a public reception at the Blackstone Valley Visitors Center. Five professional photographers, Butch Adams, Paul Darling, Richard Benjamin, Jesse Nemerofsky and Aaron Usher, along with Mayor Donald Grebien, selected their favorite photos, which will make up the 2014 City of Pawtucket Photo Calendar.
The winners were:
Alex Roman, Mayor’s Choice Award — $100 cash prize and cover of calendar; Carol Cardillo, first-place winner and $75 cash prize; and Lisa Lettieri, second-place winner and $50 cash prize.
Honorable Mention: Janessa Avila Crespo, Fern Farley, Kaleigh Temlion, Richard Hebert, Linda Dugas, Ashanty Vega, Shirley Ward and Andrew Edward Maguire.