It was a glorious burning, the best in years.
But then, everything about this year’s Gaspee Days was glorious, not just the ceremonial burning of the British ship that ran aground off Namquid Point while pursuing the Hannah, a colonial vessel, on June 9, 1772 that marks the close of the celebration. When colonists learned that the Gaspee wouldn’t be going anywhere until the flood tide, they rowed out to the ship, setting it afire after taking off the crew and captain, who was shot but not killed in the incident.
There wasn’t such drama Sunday afternoon as parade chair Tracey Miller rode an inflatable to set ablaze a trough of kerosene running the length of a steel cutout of the ship from which hung sheets for sails. Yet, appropriately there were many more shots fired – including a Pawtuxet Rangers cannon – from the shores of Pawtuxet Park where militia were encamped.
“I’m glad it’s over,” said Gaspee Days president Ryan Giviens. Giviens joked it didn’t cost any extra for the sunny weather that accompanied most of the celebration, although, he added, he would have gladly paid if that’s what was required.
Giviens estimated 30,000 turned out for the parade on Saturday, a number that he thought was probably impacted by the National Guard Air Show that was also held over the weekend. He agreed the parade seemed to be slower than usual, although there was no particular incident that could have caused delays. Also on Saturday nearly 1,600 ran the Gaspee Days 5K.
“It was hot out there,” said Giviens, who rode in a convertible. He said he was just as glad to have forgotten the vest his mother, Terri, had brought along for him.
“All my chairs worked very hard,” Giviens said of the all-volunteer crew that staged the celebration.
As his final duty, Giviens fired the Rangers’ cannon directed at the burning Gaspee. When the smoke cleared and Giviens stepped back and declared, “That wraps up year 53.”
Of course it didn’t. Yet to be done was putting everything away for next year. But the pressure was off…and it could rain for all he cared.
For more photos of the event, check out work from a Warwick photographer, Christopher Markrush, by clicking HERE.