Monday, October 20, 2014

Columbus Day Weekend - Atwell's Avenue and the Scituate Art Festival

Columbus Day is a major holiday in New England although I can't for the life of me figure out why. Chris didn't come remotely close to this part of the "new world," and if he had, we can be fairly certain things would've have worked out differently for the folks who now call this corner of the planet home.

Anyway, part of the city's festivities, at least in our part of Providence, is found on Atwell's Avenue on Federal Hill, where the focus is mainly on Chris's Italian heritage. Atwell's is at the center of the "old Italy" part of Providence and you can still find some of the vestiges of that part of the city's history right here. A 20-minute walk from our home we occasionally come to Atwell's to buy Italian groceries at Tony's Colonial or Venda Ravioli.

This time we walked to see what the fuss was all about. It was a gorgeous Sunday as we made our way through the throngs of people moving one way and another up and down the street.

Several blocks of Atwell's was roped off and the street was lined with booths selling housing products, Italian-themed kitsch and of course everybody seemed to be selling sausage and peppers sandwiches. So we bought a couple of bottles of Peroni and strolled listening to Italian music on one stage, and a Sinatra-style crooner on another, as we wandered along a time-honored tradition among the Italians of Federal Hill.

Columbus Day Weekend in Rhode Island also means it's time for the enormous and enormously popular Scituate Art Festival. Located barely 20 miles from Atwell's Avenue the contrasts, the differences between Federal Hill and rural Scituate couldn't have been more palpable.

From the inner city tension of lives lived on the edge defined by a powerful ethnic history on the one hand and the asphalt of Federal Hill on the other to the sublime beauty of fall colors above a row of porta-potties in front of the local cemetery, it required a shift in perspective on what exactly makes up Rhode Island, or perhaps who. From Italian kitsch made in China to art made in New England was a leap indeed. . .

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