Since the early days of American history, cities, towns and communities have set aside places where citizens can gather to meet and enjoy all the things life has to offer. New York has Central Park, in Boston, it’s the Commons and Pawtucket, RI has Slater Memorial Park.
Slater Memorial Park started life with the purchase of the Dagget Farm’s 200 acres in 1894. The idea met with considerable opposition until 1903 when an appropriation to build an access road was received.
The centerpiece of Slater Memorial Park is the Dagget House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The original 1643 home burned during the King Phillip War. The home was rebuilt in 1685 by the second John Dagget and according to George Washington’s diary, he really did sleep there.
Thanks to the efforts of the Pawtucket chapter of the DAR, the house with nine fully period furnished rooms is open for tours by appointment from April to December.
The second jewel in the Slater crown is the Loof Carousel. Carved by the master, Charles Loof, between 1860 and 1875, this historic carousel is the oldest Loof Stander Carousel in the world. The carousel became a part of the park in 1910.
From historic farm to present day, these 200 acres have provided a venue where people can gather for a wide variety of sports and activities.
The Arts in the Park program fulfils that purpose masterfully with a constant lineup of high quality entertainment and events. Rarely since the days when Rocky Point Park had their Tuesday outdoor concerts, has there been such quality entertainment provided for free.
We often equate free entertainment with a lesser quality. Last Thursday, Back Eddy Bluegrass took the stage with real front row entertainment. If you kept your feet still for five minutes, someone should have checked your pulse.
Even if Bluegrass is not your favorite play list, they have a unique contemporary sound that draws you in. One of their original songs, “Starry Southern Nights” is now my favorite Bluegrass song. It’s one of those songs I just can’t get out of my head.
Regardless of your preference for music, they have it on the schedule. The season opened with Dick Wilner’s classic rock band, followed the next week with country music. Irish, 1950s/60s a cappella and old standards all made their appearance. Coming up in the remaining weeks is Abbey Rhode, a Beatles tribute band and a classic rock band called Five Flavor Discount.
The season’s piece de resistance is the September 17th performance of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Pops Orchestra. The concert will be followed by a fireworks display with the carousel open to ride for 25 cents.
Tuesday evenings belong to the kids. July and August host weekly events of magic, comedy and music. Coming up August 23, 2011 is the Toe Jam Puppet Band that will have the kids dancing the Do-Se-Do. This unique interactive children’s act will have the parents smiling just as hard. The music is fantastic, the dancing is great exercise for the kids and they’re simply a lot of fun. The carousel is open during and after each performance.
Slater Memorial Park is also a sports park. The George Patrick Duffy Sports Complex has 10 youth ball fields. There are three tee-ball fields, two softball (one lit), four little league fields (two lit) and one major league diamond complete with lights formerly from McCoy stadium.
If tennis is your sport, the 10 lit hard courts host several adult and youth leagues as well as open court time.
Starting at Armistice Blvd and completing 2.2 miles later in East Providence, the bike path (completed in 2004) winds through the most scenic paths in both cities. It’s a real treat when the fall colors begin to emerge.
Of special interest to the younger children is the Adventure Playground. With a separate play area for tots, the playground reopened in May of 2005 after a $350,000 remake. Complete with two climbing nets, boulder climbing and multiple slides. The landings and intensive use areas are poured rubber for safety and ease of maintenance.
When summer is a memory and the holidays approach, Slater Memorial Park takes on a fantasyland appearance with the special Winter Wonderland festival.
The program manager, Adele Cooney, is already hard at work making all the winter magic happen. It begins in the first two weekends of December and features over 400 Christmas trees. Each tree is sponsored and decorated by individual families for $25. Three different choices of lights are provided with each tree.
In addition to the brilliant Christmas tree display, there is also a tent with entertainment, hayrides, visits from Santa and rides on the carousel. The entire festival is designed around family fun for the holidays.
While nearly all state and city parks hibernate during the offseason, Slater remains a vibrant addition to the community. From spring to winter, the only real change is in the decorations. Enjoy summer at the Arts in the Park festival, but leave some time the rest of the year for all the coming events. You’ll be hard put to find more things to do and see and most all of it for the best price possible. Free!
Summer Arts in the Park schedule
Back Eddy Bluegrass
Toe Jam Puppet Band