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R.I. Seafood Festival attracts students, locals

Two-day festival offers fresh seafood, local art and music in India Point Park

The enticing aroma of freshly-caught seafood mingled with the refreshing breeze blowing off the Providence River and the mellow sounds of live bands to establish the laidback atmosphere at India Point Park, where over 20,000 people gathered over two days for the fourth annual Rhode Island Seafood Festival.

“It’s about music, art and food, which we view as art,” festival founder Dan MacKinnon said, adding that 90 percent of the festival’s vendors are local to Rhode Island.

MacKinnon and TJ McNulty co-founded the festival in 2011 as a passion project generated by their shared love of seafood and the good times that often accompany the cuisine.

“It’s not just about the seafood. It’s about having that peace of mind that this is what life is about,” MacKinnon said.

The pair originally hoped the festival would provide people with a way to enjoy themselves without blowing the bank. With such a high student population, the Providence community seemed like it would be particularly responsive to the idea, MacKinnon said.

“You’ve got a bunch of students who may not have much money. If they’ve got two dollars in their pocket, we want them to come down,” he added.

And come they did, following many Thayer Street food trucks down to the park. Mijos Tacos and Plouf Plouf parked at the festival, hawking special marine-inspired menus including lobster mole tacos and locally sourced calamari, respectively. Though the prices at Mijos were notably higher than those of their typical tacos, the tender lobster and balanced mole made the extra bucks well worth it.

Other Rhode Island vendors included the Shuckin’ Truck and Matunuck Oyster Bar, offering ever-popular lobster rolls and oysters for a steal. The seafood was complemented by the gratis ocean view, briny breeze and upbeat music. On Satuday Clyde Lawrence ’15 and his band brought the crowd to its feet by the end of their set.

“It’s better than a frat house, and it’s sunny,” Jordan Beard ’15 said.

A steady supply of booze quenched the festival, with the beer and liquor tent functioning as both the geographic and economic center of the festival.

According to McNulty, Saturday’s liquor sales outweighed food sales. On tap were local favorites including Narragansett and Newport Storm, with dark and stormies made with Newport Distilling Company’s Thomas Tew rum. Wine by Rhode Island-based winery ShelaLara rounded out the alcoholic offerings.

Though MacKinnon and McNulty have spent their own money on the event each year, they said they can no longer lose money in the name of fun and plan to charge for admission at next year’s festival.

“There’ll probably be a hurricane blowing in next year when we do that,” McNulty said, flashing a smile at the clear, blue sky that made this year’s festival such a sunny success.


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