PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Mayor Brett Smiley is defending the city’s response to Sunday’s inclement weather, which caused PVDFest to be cut short.
“I’m deeply disappointed by the weather and its impact,” Smiley said during a news conference on Tuesday.
When the outdoor arts festival kicked off Friday night, the weather was hot and humid. But by Saturday, rain and lightning began disrupting the event.
An hour and a half of programming was delayed on Saturday, and around 3 p.m. Sunday, the mayor made the call to cancel the last three hours of the festival.
Smiley was asked about how this year’s change in venue to 195 District Park, along South Main Street and South Water Street, played a role in evacuating the event.
Festivalgoers and vendors were told to evacuate to parking garages on Eddy and South Main streets, in addition to inside Plant City on South Water Street.
Smiley told reporters he nonetheless felt good about the planning that went into choosing those sites, and explained how vendors who had to pay fees to set up tables may be able to be compensated for the lost time.
“I am really empathetic to the damage done to businesses and we’re working to see what resources might be available,” he said. “We are in an information-gathering mode right now to see how we might be able to either make resources available or if it becomes a designated event, there may be reimbursement available from the federal government or otherwise.”
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Smiley said previously that the September weekend was chosen to help out the hospitality industry. He said conversations with hotels and restaurants indicated they are in somewhat of a lull the weekend after Labor Day, so the date change was an effort to boost business, but also said the city is open to feedback moving forward.
When Smiley announced the changes to the festival back in June, he told reporters the city expected around 100,000 people to attend. He didn’t have full attendance numbers to share on Tuesday.
“We know it was tens of thousands, we don’t have a better estimate than that. We will soon,” Smiley said.
The mayor said the city will review drone footage and make attendance estimates on crowd size based on aerial photos, a process the city has used in the past.
He said it will be tough to make comparisons to years past due to the heat, rain and lightning causing disruptions, but the city plans to share estimated attendance numbers in the weeks ahead.