On Saturday and Sunday, Providence residents and outsiders alike can stop by India Point Park to enjoy food, drinks and music at the Rhode Island Seafood Festival.
Over 50 sponsors and vendors will gather this weekend for the event, now in its sixth year. The event was founded by current event operations manager TJ McNulty and two of his friends. After seeing a similar event in Putnam, Connecticut, the trio decided to create one for Providence, thinking that a seafood festival seemed more appropriate for a seaside city like Providence than landlocked Putnam.
While McNulty said the first year of the festival was admittedly “rough” for the three first-time festival planners, the festival has grown in size and scope over the past few years — from a single-day event attended by 500 people to a two-day event with an expected turnout of over 5,000 people.
This year, the festival is sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which plans to use the event to help advertise two upcoming “Out of the Darkness Community Walks” to help raise money and awareness for suicide prevention. The first of these community walks in Rhode Island will take place Sept. 17 in Warwick and the second Oct. 22 in Pawtucket.
“There’s a stigma around talking about suicide which is counterproductive to what we’re trying to do. If someone’s struggling we want them to be able to feel like that they can get help that they need,” said Justin Alves, co-chairman of the Board of Directors of the Rhode Island chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “We’re trying to tie it to a public event that has a positive, other note to it, so it gets people talking about suicide prevention and mental health.”
This year, the festival has tried to bring in a more diverse range of food and drink options — from pizza to hot dogs to its conventional staple of seafood, McNulty said. Many vendors and sponsors, like TwoTen Oyster Bar based out of South Kingston, Rhode Island, return to the event year after year, drawn to its “fun, local” atmosphere, wrote Brianna Cain, marketing coordinator for TwoTen Oyster Bar, in an email to The Herald.
It’s the “right kind of atmosphere to get a taste of everything (Rhode Island) has to offer,” Cain wrote.
McNulty said he wants to continue planning the event for as long as possible, but hopes if the workload becomes too overwhelming, the festival will continue in the hands of another planner. People’s enthusiasm for the festival makes the hard work of the planning stages worth it, he said.
Tickets for the festival will be $5 and can be purchased both days of the festival.