Providence to honor 375th birthday with fireworks

Posted Nov. 21, 2011, at 7:20 p.m.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Providence, the capital city of economically struggling Rhode Island, is putting its woes aside for a night and celebrating its 375th birthday with fireworks, music and cake for more than 1,000 people.

The city honors its birthday Tuesday with a celebration at the Providence Performance Arts Center. It will feature a performance by Rhode Island-based band Deer Tick, whose new album is called “Divine Providence.”

“Of course we need a party,” said former Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, who will join Mayor Angel Taveras and three other former mayors for the culminating celebration.

More than 2,000 tickets have been sold for the event, said Lynne McCormack, city director of art, culture and tourism. The city raised $33,000 through sponsorships to cover the cost, and the fireworks and some performing acts were donated, she said.

“We wanted to make sure we ended with a bang and do something that reflected the diversity of the city,” McCormack said. The city has hosted 200 events this year to celebrate its birthday.

Providence has had little to celebrate in 2011. Since Taveras took office in January, the city has eliminated a $110 million deficit by renegotiating labor contracts, imposing a hiring freeze, raising parking fees, cutting positions and even closing schools. The unemployment rate in Rhode Island is 10.4 percent.

“After what the city has gone through … she definitely needs not a party but a celebration,” said former Mayor Joseph Paolino Jr., who ran the city from 1984 to 1991.

The city dates back to the spring of 1636 when Rogers Williams was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his ideas about the separation of church and state. Before his punishment was imposed, Williams slipped away and eventually met the Narragansett Indians who deeded him the land that became Providence. Williams saw Providence as a place where religious freedom could flourish.

Williams would be “proud of how much the spirit of his ‘lively experiment’ still animates Providence,” Taveras said in a statement.

Johnson & Wales University is preparing a display cake featuring city landmarks, including the Rogers Williams statue and the Haven Brothers food truck.

Jenni Schouppe, an executive pastry chef, said at least 200 hours have been spent preparing the cake so far.

The celebration is also a homecoming for Deer Tick, who has been touring.

“PPAC is where we saw Neil Young. We could not be more excited to be playing there,” drummer and vocalist Dennis Ryan said.

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