PORTSMOUTH — Bands, dignitaries and more will march down Park Avenue in Island Park next Labor Day weekend in celebration of Portsmouth’s 375th birthday.
Set for August 31, the parade will be the centerpiece of a a late summer weekend of community-based celebratory events. Other events being planned for this weekend may 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.
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 townspeople. The group will be gathering comments, suggestions and concerns from Island Park residents in the coming weeks and also hopes 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 atwww.portsmouthri375.com for details and contact information.
A parade down Park Avenue would be a fitting recognition of Island Park’s historic contributions to Portsmouth, committee members believe. 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, and the neighborhood has also shown that it knows how to celebrate.
In his book, “Historical Tracts of the Town of Portsmouth Rhode Island,” 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.”