In 1994, Barnaby Evans realized a unique artistic 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 over 80 braziers and the lighting occurs about twenty times a year – sometimes as full and sometimes as partial displays – with help of hundreds of dedicated volunteers and donations from visitors.
Every display is spectacular, with festival-sized crowds and cool medieval-feeling music, 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. There’s no one location, as the fires are set all the way from Waterplace Park to Memorial/South Main Street Park, but the ceremonial lighting begins in the circular basin at Waterplace Park, usually just after sunset, and the fires generally remain lit through midnight. Waterfire happens regularly from the end of May to October – check www.waterifre.org for a schedule.
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)