Despite COVID-19 setbacks, WaterFire hopes to return to Providence this summer


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The organizers of a popular summertime event in Rhode Island are brainstorming ways it can safely be held this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, roughly 1 million people attend WaterFire in Providence, generating approximately $114 million in revenue for the city, according to WaterFire Managing Director Peter Mello.

“We would rather be celebrating 25 years. But instead, the coronavirus has kind of caused us to put our season on hold,” he said.

Mello met with city officials Wednesday to come up with a way to bring WaterFire back in 2020. He said timed admissions and one-way in, one-way out routes were discussed, as well as designated locations for spectators.

While planning is still in the preliminary stages, Mello said much of their attention has shifted to the WaterFire Arts Center, where the Beacon of Hope art installation pays tribute to the Rhode Islanders that have died from COVID-19.

“Each Rhode Island life lost, we add a candle to the installation,” Mello said. “Right now, there’s over 900 candles, almost 1,000 candles.”

With WaterFire on hold, Mello said they’ve lost roughly 80% of their revenue. He’s hoping that private donors will keep the 25-year-old celebration afloat by contributing to the WaterFire Relief Fund.

“It’s a million-dollar fund that we’re trying to raise,” Mello said. “We’re probably at around $150,000 as of this point.”

WaterFire held a virtual event back in May, when stay-at-home orders were still in place in Rhode Island. More than 15,000 viewers from 16 countries tuned in to watch.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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