In 1994, artist Barnaby Evans realized a unique vision – to light bonfires on the three rivers of downtown Providence, creating a powerful work of art and a symbol of Providence’s Renaissance.
Today, Waterfire is still burning bright. So brightly, in fact, there are now nearly 100 braziers and the lighting occurs as often as twice a month (the next full lighting is July 20 for the record, and celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Mission) with the help of hundreds of dedicated volunteers and donations from visitors.
Whether a full lighting, which winds through the downtown area, or partial lightings, which are confined to Waterplace Basin, every display is spectacular, with festival-sized crowds and ethereal music which gives the event an almost medieval-feeling vibe. There are vendors selling everything from food to light sticks and glowing lanterns, and barges of black-garbed volunteers prowling the river in wood-filled barges to keep the hungry braziers fed with fresh logs. The ceremonial lighting begins at the circular Waterplace Basin (close to Providence Place) after sunset, and the fires generally remain lit through midnight.
The WaterFire experience is free, but donations are welcome (it’s a non-profit grass roots effort!) By the way, one of the coolest ways to witness the event is by boat – there are several outfits that can get you on the water, including LaGondola (www.gondoari.com)