Last night, the kids got to stay up late enough to see a river lit on fire. It was the first WaterFire of the '08 season, and we decided to ignore usual bedtimes in order to be there.
We started our evening at the Providence Place Mall, eating dinner at Dave & Buster's, where no one seemed to mind that Jilly spilled her lemonade, not once, but twice. After a few video games in their arcade, we were ready to go outside and get positioned for the lighting of the fires.
Having never been at the start of the event, I had no idea how the whole thing would begin. The Mall is at one end of the fire's route, so we just started following the path of the river. It was about 7p.m., about an hour before sunset when the fires would be lit.
In the river were floating buoys filled with wood, waiting for the start. A beautiful gondola pushed a couple through the still waters. Vendors sold glow-in-the dark light sabers and necklaces although we convinced the kids to wait until we found WaterFire volunteers selling their "Ribbons of Light" necklaces which double as a fund raiser. Unfortunately, WaterFire is also feeling the economic pinch; with fewer corporate sponsors this year, they've had to cut back the number of fires that will be lit through October.
With my kids' tired legs and my husband's broken toe, we did not venture far down the river's route. We heard that at the other end, closer to the colleges, were more festivities, but we were content to find a spot to sit at WaterPlace Basin, where the fires are set up in a large circle. Outside one restaurant, there was beer and wine for sale. We chose instead to fuel up on Del's Lemonade.
The area around us became crowded with people, and it was a true melting pot of ages, ethnicities and styles (my kids really liked the guy with rainbow-colored hair). We saw several people walking dogs and pushing babies in strollers. People ate and drank at the restaurants with outdoor seating along the river. My kids rolled down a grassy hill as we waited for sunset.
Shortly after 8:00, music started to play through the loudspeakers---a slow, drumming beat. A few songs played as we sat in the dark. Finally, we saw a boat appear, followed by several others piled with wood and black-clad volunteers. A torch was lit and the fire was passed from boat to boat. Most of the boats then headed back upstream but two stayed in our circle. After positioning the boats at opposite ends of the circle, they began to light the fires in front of us.
The crowd cheered. The atmosphere, though, was calm and soothing. Many stood to walk up river, although we chose to sit a while and watch the flames grow higher. The river seemed to glow as it reflected the light. The ambient music continued to play as we slowly got up and began our walk back to the car with sleepy children in tow.
The next WaterFire is Friday, May 30th (see a complete schedule here---scroll down page for dates). Beginning in August, the lightings will occur before 8pm, so those with early bedtimes can attend without too much disruption to their schedule. Don't miss it.