Westerly Downtown Solstice Festival

by Kari Kline

Long-time RI resident and business owner, Carrie Baird, tried her hand for the first time at coordinating the Westerly Downtown Solstice Festival held on Thursday, June 19.

Many residents of Westerly know Carrie as owner of Carrie’s Shoes at 26 A High Street. She is also president of the Westerly-Pawcatuck Downtown Business Association. “Downtown Westerly seemed the perfect location for a shoe store because it was centrally located amongst CT and RI towns and cities in an area where there had been no shoe stores in years,” said Carrie.

Carrie is also co-owner of Diane’s Beachwear located in Watch Hill.

Carrie’s duties for the Solstice Festival ranged from working with licenses, permits and insurance to booking food vendors and contacting the 35 volunteers.

“I have a Solstice Committee who I have to thank dearly for their hard work. This would never happen without them!” said Carrie. “We have a lot of volunteers from the Church at Westerly, and downtown merchants are volunteering for the event.”

Festival goers enjoyed carnival games – such as ring toss, mini-golf putt, bean bag toss, tic-tac-toe toss, and a basketball shooting contest – a 30” high rock wall owned by Ollie’s Rock Wall, an obstacle course, and a Jumparoo moonwalk.

Among the delicacies available at the Taste of Westerly Food Court were Antonio’s steak and cheese grinders, Van Ghent Crepes, Dusty’s Ice Cream, Perks & Corks, Café Mario’s Italian Pastries, Del’s Lemonade, Caboose Kettle Corn, and The Bayou Barbeque.

There were two stages for performances during the Festival. The event kicked off at 5:30 p.m. with a dance performance by Ms. Michelle’s L’Ecole de Danse, which lasted about twenty minutes. This performance took place on the first stage, located at the intersection of Broad and High Streets.

At 6:00 p.m. on the same stage, the Westerly All-Stars, a local rock-n-roll band, performed until sunset. Joey Nigrelli, a member of the band, is the vice president of the Westerly-Pawcatuck Downtown Business Association. His family owns Nigrelli’s Jewelry, located in downtown Westerly.

The second stage was in front of Northeast Karate Studios at 39 High Street. There was a karate performance by Northeast Karate from 6:00 to 6:45 p.m. Ms. Michelle’s L’Ecole de Danse performed again from 7:15 to 8:15 p.m. on this stage.

Face painting was available at the Kids Imagination Station, a craft tent for kids. Some crafts offered included coloring, stained glass, beading, rubber stamping, sticker art, decorating sunglasses and blowing bubbles.

“The summer solstice is the longest day of the year, from sunrise to sunset,” explained Carrie. “The Solstice Festival is a celebration of the start of the summer months which is one of the greatest times of the year here in Westerly.”