PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With a weekend full of fun planned in Providence, tourism officials say they are expecting big crowds in Rhode Island’s capital city.
Rhode Island Comic Con will take over both the Dunkin Donuts Center and the RI Convention Center from Friday to Sunday. According to officials at the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau (PWCVB), the event will draw tens of thousands of fans from around the area.
Mayor Jorge Elorza, Larry Lepore, general manager of the RICC and the Dunk, and actor Lou Ferrigno cut the ribbon Friday with light sabers to launch the Comic Con festivities.
Lepore said the event will not be a repeat of last year – when thousands of ticket holders waited in line for hours before being blocked from the center because it had hit capacity. He said new scanners will allow the fire marshal to accurately measure how many people enter and leave the facility.
“You have to be scanned in and scanned out,” he said Friday.
Mayor Elorza said all celebrity acts will be spread out between the Convention Center and the Dunk.
“To make sure that we accommodate all of our guests so they have a wonderful time, but also not inconvenience our residents and the people who work downtown,” the mayor said.
Visitors to Providence this weekend will also be able to attend the annual WaterFire Salute to Veterans. The third annual event will be held Saturday. Opening ceremonies are expected to start on the steps of the state house at 3:45 p.m. and the fires will be lit at 4:30.
These two events, as well as the opening of “A Christmas Carol” at Trinity Repertory Theater, and performances of “Motown the Musical” at the Providence Performing Arts Center will make for a busy day Saturday.
Organizers and community leaders say they are working to ensure that all visitors can safely enjoy the city.
“We certainly don’t want anyone to change their plans to come into the city. It’s going to be a great night to be in Providence,” said PWCVB President and CEO Martha Sheridan. “We just want visitors to be aware that it may take a little extra time to get to where they want to go. They may also want to look at public transportation options, taxis and Uber.”
According to Major Thomas Verdi of the Providence Police Department, all roads will be open, but police will be posted at both WaterFire and Comic Con.
The PWCVB said Comic Con organizers have been working on a communications plan for the past few months. Updated Comic Con information will be available to the public on RIComicCon.com, and on the RI Comic Con Facebook and Twitter pages.
Elorza said he hopes the busy weekend will help boost Providence’s economy.
“We want the folks from the convention to go downtown into restaurants, bars and our local stores and have a nice time,” he said.Comic Con Kicks Off
Eyewitness News was downtown Friday night – as Comic Con fans made themselves known in the city.
Dante Jones, who works for 365 Parking, said his company has a lot across the street from the Comic Con festivities.
“Definitely, we have the best rates in town,” he said. “Today was a little bit slow, but we’re hoping it’s going to pick up a lot more.
If you do happen to find parking downtown – don’t worry about bringing change. Providence is offering new credit card meters.
Outside of Comic Con, fans were seen in groups – some even dressed in costumes.
Scott Kegler of Connecticut was dressed as The Joker from the Batman series.
He said he and his group ended up getting a hotel room for the weekend because the city was so crazy.
“Little intimidated to see what Saturday and Sunday are going to be like.”