One of the most wonderful things about Providence is WaterFire, which started as an art installation in 1994 by artist Barnaby Evans to help celebrate First Night Providence and which has grown in scope and size every year since. Saturday night was the first partial WaterFire to kick off the season thanks to a sponsorship by Volvo. It was also a good trial run for Moonie, as it featured fewer fires, fewer people, and fewer food and drink to stimulate the senses than a full WaterFire lighting, which can easily draw ten thousand people and hundreds of vendors and performers. I wanted to make sure he’d be OK with the smaller version before I blew his mind with a full WaterFire.

We got there just in time for WaterFire crew members to float by us one of their boats, lighting the braziers full of wood on fire. Great timing!


Hey, Moonie, look what’s coming toward us. A boat with a pretty lady on it!


But not just any pretty lady. This one was dancing with fire!


Moonie was instantly smitten.


Wonderful to watch!


Another wonderful thing is the chandeliers full of lit candles in all of the “tunnels” running under the bridges. They lend a mix of European quaintness and otherwordly eeriness to each WaterFire.


Moonie, of course, needed to check out the candles up close.


When he finally came down, we enjoyed more of the lovely lit fires.


Speakers installed up and down the rivers play a special WaterFire soundtrack that changes each year, and sometimes several times a year. The mix of old and new music from all around the world, and some from right in Providence, allows for a well-rounded experience for all of WaterFire’s visitors.

This night they were playing everything from Enya’s softly synthesized “Only Time,” which lent a meditative air to the dancing flames, to B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” in homage to the great bluesman’s recent passing.


I enjoyed watching the light of the flames outline people and objects, lending them a warm, mystical air. As you can see, not many streetlights were needed that night, as the fire provided a lovely warm glow throughout the basin.


Moonie thoroughly enjoyed the “fishies” that “swam” through the air. (WaterFire staff hang out under brightly-lit fish these days, ready to answer questions or offer goods and services.)


There are also various installations and artworks at various WaterFires, including performers who dress and act like statues and bands who provide music for big outdoor swing dances. On this night, we were lucky to catch the Mobile Museum of American Artifacts.


Some of the MMOAA artifacts were self-explanatory.


This guy, “Pool Boy 1,” was labeled as “Bad Coffee Shop Art” (awwww) and was gifted to the MMOAA by a couple who’d purchased several pieces of coffee shop art off the wall to celebrate the occasion of their first polyamorous date (after the couple had met a woman in a coffee shop and presumably hit it off with her).


This MMOAA entry must have made a lot of Rhode Islanders happy. This collaboration between Del’s Lemonade and Narragansett Beer just debuted last year, and the resulting cans of shandy had been flying off the shelves. I’m guessing they’ll have a successful summer this year, too.


I loved these 50s-era milk cartons and bottle caps. A sign explained that the Connecticut farm where they originated no longer has cows, but it earns its income from keeping chicks and goats, “whose diets range from hay to salvaged doughnuts.” Moonie was totally on board with the doughnut part.


And finally, who wouldn’t have been fascinated with this “mourning flower journal?” It was kept in the 1940s by a widow who chronicled every flower she left on her husband’s grave. It was amazing to have something so sweet and abstract on the outside, with this interesting cover, and yet so precise and technical inside, with pages and pages of neatly-printed data. The entries stopped less than halfway through, though, and even the sign explaining the journal’s purpose hinted how mysterious that had been (perhaps she too passed on?).


Happy that people go to the trouble of saving random artifacts of life that others find interesting, Moonie and I stepped back out of the little mobile museum and back to the lovely basin lit with delicious-smelling fire. If you look closely here, you can even see a gondolier using a long paddle to maneuver a gondola (a real one brought over from Venice, Italy) around the basin for his passengers. The gondolas are another wonderful and unique aspect of WaterFire, although I had to tell Moonie we couldn’t ride on one (they’re a special treat for a romantic couple but a bit out of budget for a gal and her troll doll). He was content to just watch them steer around the flames, though. Phew!


Such a wonderful scent in the air of our capital city! I can still smell a bit of woodsmoke if I sniff Moonie’s bright pink hair.


Everyone gets contemplative at some point while watching WaterFire’s flames, and even excited and excitable little Moonie was no exception. Here he is thinking heavy thoughts. About salvaged doughnuts.


The reflections of embers are just gorgeous, aren’t they, Moonie?


Moonie spotted and pulled me over to another “fishie.”


And then onto one of the bridges to look at the stars.


“Star!” he squealed.
“Star,” I agreed.


More great WaterFire views for Moonie.


And more. Really, any direction you look has something lovely at these events.


The most important part: to help keep the flames lit, WaterFire accepts donations at various stops throughout the event, staffed by people happy to answer any questions visitors have. Moonie insisted on donating a couple of dollars, even if it was a struggle to get them all the way up into the big tall jar. That’s my guy!


One last view and photo, and then we headed home, happy and satisfied from a great event thanks to all the WaterFire staff, volunteers, sponsors, and donors.


Moonie will be back soon!

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