PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The capital city’s beloved annual outdoor arts festival has officially returned.

Mayor Brett Smiley kicked off PVDFest Thursday with a media briefing, where he highlighted everything this year’s festival has to offer.

Watch Mayor Smiley’s full announcement below.

What can attendees expect?

PVDFest is expected to bring tens of thousands of people to the capital city.

The free event will be held Friday through Sunday at a new location: 195 District Park on the Providence River waterfront. It’ll feature public art, live music and all different kinds of food, along with a special WaterFire lighting on Saturday night and a parade on Sunday.

Main stage headliners include Chachi Carvalho on Friday night, Flawless and Mavis Staples on Saturday night, and the Afrika Nyaga Drum & Dance Festival, curated by Providence-based djembefola Sidy Maiga on Sunday.

The mayor’s office says the festival will continue rain or shine, and performances will pause if there is lightning, but will continue on after it passes.

Attendees are advised to come hungry. Eric Weiner of FoodTrucksIn said there will be about 30 vendors to choose from.

“There’s guaranteed to be something for everyone to savor throughout the entire weekend,” Weiner added.

(Story continues below map.)

Started back in 2015, the event was typically held downtown in June, but Smiley announced earlier this year that the venue and date would be changing. He also banned open alcohol containers outside of certain areas.

Alcoholic beverages this year will be located inside the Beer Garden by The Guild or within the confines of block parties being hosted by special permit.

What are the hours?

  • Friday, Sept. 8:  5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Sept. 9:  12 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.; WaterFire 7:23 p.m. – 11 p.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 10: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Getting to and from PVDFest

Festival organizers say several streets downtown will be closed over the weekend. Drivers are encouraged to use alternate means of transportation when possible and are reminded to respect road closures.

If you plan to drive to the festival yourself or through a rideshare, plan ahead for traffic. Delays can be expected due to lane closures in the area of Exit 33 on I-95. Alternate routes are available on Route 10 and I-295.

Organizers recommend using the South Street Landing Garage to park, though additional paid parking can be found at various downtown lots and garages.

The festival will also feature a designated ADA drop-off and pick-up area, as well as parking options for patrons with disabilities. ADA parking is located primarily on Dyer Street.

If you plan to use a ride-share app, organizers recommend being dropped off or picked up at 1 Kennedy Plaza or 1 Dorrance Street to avoid traffic, noting that there will be a five to ten-minute walk to the festival from there.

PVDFest is partnering with Bird Rides for the weekend. Organizers say Bird bikes and scooters will cost $1 to unlock, then a per-minute fee thereafter. Bikes and scooters are not allowed inside the footprint of the festival, however.

Is it sensory-friendly?

New this year, the festival is partnering with Spectrum Theatre Ensemble (STE), a Rhode Island-based neurodiverse theatre company, to implement signage indicating sensory impact levels at various performance areas. A red sign indicates intense sensory elements, while a yellow sign indicates moderate sensory elements and a green sign indicates minimal sensory elements. You can also go to a designated sensory relaxed zone, away from the performance areas.

What items are not allowed?

Providence police told 12 News they’ll be patrolling throughout the city, and the festival itself will be secured by both city officers and private security staff. First-aid services will also be on site.

Tobacco and marijuana are prohibited in the festival area, along with the following items:

  • Weapons and contraband of any kind
  • Outside alcoholic beverages
  • Vapes
  • Fireworks or explosives
  • Illegal or illicit substances of any kind
  • Motorized vehicles including dirt bikes, electric bicycles, ATVs and scooters
  • Laser pointers
  • Drones

“As always, public safety is top priority of Mayor Smiley’s administration and the members of the Providence Police Department,” Col. Oscar Perez said. “PVD Fest Safety and Security plans and procedures have been thoroughly discussed over the past several months to ensure that those who visit our vibrant city this weekend are able to celebrate in a safe environment.”