Heritage Day Festival, a Providence tradition, moves to Pawtucket

Heritage Day Festival, a Providence tradition, moves to Pawtucket

PAWTUCKET – A four-decade tradition in Providence, the Heritage Day Festival, is moving to Pawtucket for its 41st edition this fall.

On Saturday, Sept. 21, the one-day festival will come to the Pawtucket Armory Arts Center, 172 Exchange St.

“Travel around the world in one day,” all for free as part of this family event, say organizers.

“Join in a lively celebration of our state’s rich cultural heritage,” states a release. “The Pawtucket Armory Arts Center will be filled with culture, music, and dancing from around the world.”

Donna Alqassar, coordinator of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, said organizers wanted to give another city the opportunity to host this state festival. The festival has always been outside, which has proven problematic with New England’s weather, so having it indoors will be a nice change.

“Hosting it in the beautiful Pawtucket arts center will be really great for us,” Alqassar told The Breeze.

Alqassar’s predecessor, Mercedes Monteiro, who had held the position for 19 years, died last year.

“We are dedicating this festival to her name and honor,” Alqassar said. “She is a beloved (member) of the Cape Verdean community and our heritage partners.”

There will be a table-to-table system providing entertainment and education to families. There have always been crafts, but new ones will be added this year and they will be available for purchase. Participants were not previously allowed to sell items due to limitations on sales in public parks.

“Pawtucket is a diverse community that celebrates our many heritages throughout the year with events such as flag raisings. Pawtucket prides itself in welcoming businesses and festivals alike,” said Mayor Donald Grebien in a statement. We are thrilled that the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission will be bringing the Heritage Festival to Pawtucket for the first time in its 41-year history. We look forward to the festival and to continuing our partnership for many years to come.”

This year’s festival is partnering with Shea High School, which has run successful fashion shows for a decade, to present a multicultural fashion show.

“From Shea, Phyllis McHale and William Lopera have generously volunteered their time to help us put together our first cultural fashion show,” Alqassar said.

“The main focus will be the performers, cultural education and artisans,” she added.

There will be more than 16 groups performing, from many ethnicities and nationalities.

The day, running noon to 5 p.m., begins with a parade of international flags of more than 30 countries. Throughout the day, dancers and musicians from various countries will perform. The multinational fashion show will feature traditional and ceremonial clothing. Angela Sharkey and Kobi Dennis will be the emcees.

Rhode Island heritage groups will present cultural exhibits and craft demonstrations from all over the world. There will be food trucks offering an assortment of traditional foods and drinks for sale. The children’s area will have free face painting, arts, and crafts.

“We are blessed to have our three main sponsors: United Way of RI, Pawtucket Credit Union, and Neighborhood Health,” Alqassar said. Nonprofits such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island, RISCA, Dorcas International Institute, and the U.S. Census (on job opportunities) will be there.

The Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission partners with the R.I. State Council on the Arts and Welcoming Rhode Island, a program of Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, which celebrates peace, diversity and the rich cultures in the state.

The commission is the state office for historic preservation and heritage programs. It is responsible for developing and carrying out programs to document, support, and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Rhode Island’s people, and is also the statewide historic preservation program, identifying and protecting historic buildings, districts, and archaeological sites.

Breeze Editor Ethan Shorey contributed to this story.