Woonsocket to celebrate 125th anniversary with free Block Party Aug. 29

Woonsocket to celebrate 125th anniversary with free Block Party Aug. 29

WOONSOCKET - The City of Woonsocket has a rich history dating back 125 years, but you'd never know it by the recent headlines. Settled by immigrants looking for steady work in the fast-growing mills built along its long, twisting Blackstone River banks, the city reached its manufacturing zenith during World War II. Now, almost 70 years after the war ended, the mill jobs are long gone and the city has hit hard times. A point of pride, however, is CVS/Caremark, the Fortune 100 pharmacy giant headquartered in the city's Highland Park.

Despite the city's fiscal challenges, however, there's no reason not to celebrate its rich history, and next Thursday, Aug. 29, all through the evening, residents from near and far are invited to join the party.

The city's 125th Anniversary Block Party will be held the entire length of Main Street, from Market Square - near River Falls and Ye Olde English Fish & Chips restaurants - to the Stadium Theatre at Monument Square. In between the two sites, there will be 12 stages of entertainment filled with music of every type, with headliner James Montgomery and the Uptown Horns on the main stage near the Stadium. Expected to join Montgomery on stage is Peter Tork, formerly of the 60s band the Monkees. They have all been brought to the city by John Chan, longtime restaurant owner and lover of jazz.

Also near the Stadium will stand a towering replica of the Arc of Triumph, the Paris landmark.

On other stages will be the Meadowlarks Big Band (near Market Square); country music; 70s band Rough and Ready; oldies band Kings Row; positive hip hop with The Rising Stars and New Force Steppers; Northeast Groove, a five-piece band; Steve Malec and the Electric Flood; the Niteflies rock and funk; the Berklee School of Boston Jazz Band, as well as a second Rhythm and Blues band. There will also be French music, a "Stage of the Arts," and the "Taste of Woonsocket" tent serving - what else - dynamites!

If you decide to come, remember this. Forget the GPS to Main Street. It will be completely blocked off. Feel free to look for parking lots at St. Ann's Church, World War II Memorial Park entrance, the Stadium Theatre (at rear), River Island Park, the Woonsocket Middle School, or Hamlet Avenue at Front Street. There, free shuttle service by Valley Transportation will take you to and from the festivities. And please, leave your dog at home.

Not one penny of tax dollars will be spent on the party, expected to cost about $70,000. Since the Block Party planning began, headed by co-chairs Al Beauparlant and Linda Plays, city businessman Matt Moylan has been busy doing the fundraising. Moylan was especially grateful when CVS/Caremark came up with a big $25,000 donation to help fund the party.

Also that night, there will be a huge Classic Car Show, with about 200 beauties expected to arrive between 5 and 6 p.m., parking all along Main Street for visitors to check them out as they make their way between the music stages.

As for the replica Arc of Triumph - or the L'Arc de Triomphe to purists - it will stand 50 feet high. Those traveling to Woonsocket now can see it under construction near the Stadium, and it will remain in place for three weeks following the event.