Next year is the 375th anniversary of the founding of Portsmouth, RI and the group that has been working on events and other ways to celebrate this occasion over the course of 2013 is planning to conduct a parade down Park Avenue in Island Park as the centerpiece of a weekend of community-based celebratory events. The parade is being planned for Saturday, 31 August on the Labor Day weekend. Other events are being planned for this weekend as well, to possibly include a Polo match at the Glen Farm Sports complex, a commemorative ceremony at Founder’s Brook Park, and a picnic or barbeque at Glen Park.
The 375th Parade has been in the planning stages since the planning group first came together in early August. At their meeting this past week, the Portsmouth 375th Steering Committee unanimously agreed to move forward with Island Park as the venue for the 375th Parade and selected the Labor Day Weekend to hold it. The group has planned for events throughout the year in celebration of Portsmouth’s founding in 1638, but the 375th Parade will be a special occasion for residents of Portsmouth. Two members of the Steering Committee are Island Park residents, but the group will also be gathering comments, suggestions and concerns from Island Park residents in the coming weeks and also hope to hear from the rest of Portsmouth regarding what organizations and features they would like to see in the parade, which will have a theme of “Celebrating Portsmouth’s Proud Heritage and Bright Future.” Check out their website at www.portsmouthri375.com for details and contact information.
The group noted that a parade down Park Avenue would be a fitting recognition Island Park’s historic contributions to Portsmouth. Island Park figures prominently in Portsmouth’s long history, with the early founders establishing their homesteads just west of this area across Blue Bill Cove. In his book, “Historical Tracts of the Town of Portsmouth Rhode Island” (Portsmouth, Hamilton Printing, 1991), local historian John Pierce wrote: “This suburb (Island Park) pops up just about everywhere in the story of this town from the founding fathers to the present day…” Best known for its amusement parks, ballrooms and roller coaster in the early 20th century, Island Park in those days was a major destination for tourists traveling on the train and electric trolley cars from Newport and elsewhere. Some of these tourists liked the area enough to build their own summer cottages in Island Park, forming the basis for the seaside residential area that is Island Park today. According to Pierce, “It wasn’t until Labor Day that we got rid of those city people and all their relatives.” So it appears that celebrating Labor Day also has a long tradition in Island Park.