Bourget honored as grand marshal of 40th anniversary Autumnfest parade

Bourget honored as grand marshal of 40th anniversary Autumnfest parade

Paul Bourget, pictured with his wife, Denise, will be honored as grand marshal of this year's 40th anniversary Autumnfest parade.

WOONSOCKET – Paul Bourget thought he would be applauding from the audience as his fellow Rotary Club members were recognized at the club’s annual charter night at St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center on Thursday, but organization leadership had something else in mind for the longtime community member who has been involved with countless service roles and organizations over the years.

As the program neared its end, members of the Autumnfest Steering Committee, led by Parade Chairman Joseph Martin and Grand Marshal Gala Coordinator Stephanie Santoro, gathered to present the news that Bourget had been selected as grand marshal of this year’s 40th anniversary Autumnfest Parade.

Donning a signature orange Autumnfest jacket, Bourget rose to accept the honor and express his surprise and gratitude at being selected for the recognition.

“This is deserved by everybody in this room and so many in the city,” he said. “So many people in the city deserve this honor, I’ll wear this on their behalf.”

Bourget is the owner and president of Bourget and Associates, Inc., and a member of the Rhode Island Society of CPAs. Over the years, he has served with many city-based civic and community organizations, including the Rotary Club, the Knights of Columbus Woonsocket Council #113, the Stadium Theatre Foundation Board, the Museum of Work and Culture Preservation Foundation and the Cercle Laurier. He is also past vice chairman of the Woonsocket Investment Committee and currently serves as vice chair of the Woonsocket School Committee. He is married to wife, Denise, who serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Woonsocket Rotary Club.

Bourget said it was especially meaningful to receive the recognition in the hall of the former St. Ann Church, where he grew up and served as an active parishioner prior to its consolidation into All Saints Parish. As founding president of the St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center following the closing of the building by the Diocese of Providence in 2000, he played a central role in its preservation for future use.

“It was an incredible feeling and especially being at St. Ann’s Church,” he said. “This is my parish, I wrote the history of St. Ann’s. I worked with so many people at St. Ann’s and my kids were raised there.”

According to Autumnfest Chairman Richard Savaria, the selection process for this year’s grand marshal included a nomination period that opened in March. Members of the public submitted nominations for 12 individuals, who were then voted on by members of the Steering Committee. Selections were based on an individual’s contributions to the city through uncompensated roles.

Asked what stood out about Bourget’s nomination as grand marshal, Savaria said Steering Committee members were impressed with the large number of organizations through which Bourget has contributed to the city’s welfare over the years.

“The answer was, which one does he not belong to?” he said.

Savaria also noted the committee looks at an individual’s dedication and willingness to work behind the scenes without public recognition.

“It’s got to come from the heart,” he said. “These people are always stepping back when the camera comes up.”

The cameras were flashing on Thursday night as Bourget posed for a group photo with members of the Steering Committee. Bourget, who has also volunteered at Autumnfest though various organizations since its beginning and most recently marched in the parade with the Knights of Columbus, noted he will not be dressed in knight’s regalia this year, but riding in the first parade division.

“I’ll be wearing orange,” he said.

He credited the work of the Steering Committee in planning the October festival as well as its many fundraising events, including the annual grand marshal gala, held this year on Saturday, September 29, at Savini’s Pomodoro restaurant.

“I know how much they’ve worked relentlessly, so to be among this select group of people is humbling. It’s incredible,” he said.

Though he was previously honored as Rhode Island College alumni of the year, Bourget said this is the greatest honor he has received because it represents his city and all those who support it.
“Autumnfest is the blood of the city,” he said.