Waterfire Salute to Veterans honors local heroes

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Traffic was tight in Providence Saturday, as tens of thousands made their way to one of the city’s four big events.

Rhode Island Comic Con was packed at the Convention Center, while the final full WaterFire of the season happened at Water Place Park. Those two events also coincided with performances at both the Providence Performing Arts Center and Trinity Repertory Theater.

City-goers said the traffic was brutal and officials said an estimated 100,000 people could visit Providence over the course of the weekend.

“It took us about 20 minutes to find a parking spot,” said Chris Doherty, who was dressed as the “tenth doctor” from Doctor Who. He and his friend Katie, dressed as “Elastigirl,” were some of the out-of-towners city leaders would come in to the city this weekend, boosting the economy.

“Events like this definitely bring money into the city, it helps the businesses around, the food places and restaurants,” Doherty said.

Saturday’s WaterFire was a special one – held in honor of veterans ahead of the Veterans Day holiday.

“It combines two things that are great about Rhode Island. One is WaterFire, and the other of course is our veterans,” said Gov. Gina Raimondo.

More than 100 veterans marched in a procession before the Salute to Veterans WaterFire with torches in hand – as their fellow Americans saluted them.

“From World War II, the Vietnam War, the Wars on Terror,” Raimondo said.

It’s been more than 40 years since Coastguard veteran Steve Gosselin was in Vietnam. He watched on, feeling the emotions of the evening.

“They do a lot for the veterans in this state,” he said.

The event was particularity poignant – because it came less than three months after Rhode Island lost First Sgt. Peter Andrew McKenna. The Bristol native was killed in action in Afghanistan.

“That was such a dramatic reminder. Losing him, a young man, a hero, just a few months ago. That we’re still at war, and young men and women every day are risking their lives so that we can be free,” Raimondo said.

According to the governor, her administration is adding a new cabinet position for veterans services.

Mayor Jorge Elorza said Friday he hopes the many events taking place this weekend will contribute positively to the economy of Providence.Eyewitness News reporter Steph Machado was at the event. Check out her time lapse video below:

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