This photo links to an album of a few crappy cell phone photos from last night’s Waterfire in Providence. Thanks to commenter Peter VE, we were able to get a boat ride down the river to experience the sights, sounds and people involved, and it was by far the highlight of the whole Netroots Nation experience.
Waterfire’s been going on since 1994. It features fires in something like 100 wood burning pyres, accompanied by a wide variety of music (in the time we were there, we heard some Bob Marley, Erik Satie, David Gray and an aria from Pagliacci). Thousands of people line the rivers hanging out and enjoying the spectacle, while dozens of volunteers traveled the river adding more wood to keep the fires burning. A genuinely diverse group of people (all ages, races and classes) showed up to hang out and enjoy the beautiful evening.
We also met Barnaby Evans, the artist who created Waterfire. I mentioned to him that we saw a lot of couples making out during our ride, and he said that there’s some study showing that public displays of affection in urban environments are correlated with the comfort that the inhabitants have with their environment. Dogs are allowed at Waterfire and he and Peter said that there had never been a dogfight there, which says a lot about how the owners are feeling there. And for all the Waterfires since its inception, there have been only two fights, both of which came from somewhere else and were chased into the river area.
Providence is just a little gem of a city. The urban core is compact and walkable, with beautiful architecture and great places to eat, and friendly people. A couple of days hanging out in Providence, capped by night on the river experiencing Waterfire, is a hell of a good time I’d recommend to anyone.
Also, too: after Waterfire, we trekked to some bar for the Kos after party, which was everything Waterfire wasn’t. I heard that they had been invited to have their after party as part of Waterfire and weren’t interested. Maybe it was money or something else that stopped it, but what a missed opporunity. I’m going to have more to say about the politics of Kos and the Netroots movement, but for now, I just want to give a big thanks to Peter, Barnaby and the other Waterfire volunteers who were so nice to two anonymous jackasses who write shit on the Internet.