Warren Takes It Outside, plans six-week Walkabout

With state grant funds in hand, Warren hopes to help businesses as weather cools

By Ted Hayes
Posted 10/8/20

Warren officials plan to use a $75,000 state grant to re-invent the annual Walkabout festival this autumn, help give restaurant and other business owners the means to do business as the weather …

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Warren Takes It Outside, plans six-week Walkabout

With state grant funds in hand, Warren hopes to help businesses as weather cools

Posted

Warren officials plan to use a $75,000 state grant to re-invent the annual Walkabout festival this autumn, help give restaurant and other business owners the means to do business as the weather cools, and promote safe commerce outdoors.

As the weather has cooled, restaurants and other business that have been serving customers outdoors over the summer are starting to see a drop in business. But the grant, given to Warren earlier this month through the state of Rhode Island's "Take It Outside" grant program, aims to try to lessen those losses and also get more people outside.

“This grant will be extremely helpful in continuing to sustain our economic vitality," Warren Town Manager Kate Michaud said. "Assisting restaurants and businesses is critical as the colder weather approaches. Coming up with inspiring ways to get people outside is good for personal health, as well as economic health. It will also allow us to reinforce and grow the unique sense of community that Warren has always enjoyed."

One of the biggest impacts will be on Warren Walkabout, the town's annual fall business, food and outdoor arts festival. This year Walkabout will run six consecutive Sundays and is being re-cast as "Warren Walkabout - Six Sundays, Six Feet Apart." Unlike previous years, when it was held over the course of just one weekend, this year's festival starts Sunday, Oct. 25 and runs weekly through Sunday, Nov. 29.

Warren is working with Discover Warren and the Warren Arts and Cultural Commission to plan each of the six Sunday events and the final weekend, which will have events Friday, Saturday and Sunday and will culminate with a modified holiday festival.

According to Warren Town Planner Bob Rulli, this year's Walkabout will be all about promoting local business in a healthy, safe way. In the works are:

* Town assistance in obtaining tents, chairs, tables and portable heaters for local restaurants. Warren is establishing an account with Taylor Rental on Market Street to rent the items;

* Restaurants and merchants will use specially themed, locally sourced tote bags and will provide specially created face masks along with all purchases and take-out orders;

* The town will acquire bike racks to install along Main Street, Railroad Avenue and the Town Wharf on Water Street.

* Local artists will be engaged to create posters and art celebrating "Warren Taking it Outside," and artists will be given the chance to submit designs to paint electric and other utility boxes around town, much like two painted on Water Street in late 2018 by Warren artists Adam Tracy and William Schaff;

* A creative face mask contest is being considered;

* Possible street closures for larger socially distant events are being considered;

* Police detail funding will be covered with some of the grant proceeds;

* Food trucks throughout the downtown area are being considered;

* Warren hopes to work with artists in the Cutler Mill by providing a large tent so studios can be brought outside;

* Musicians will perform throughout the downtown and along Water Street;

* Warren will work with merchants and restaurants to better utilize sidewalks, when requested.

Through it all, the wearing of masks, taking appropriate social distancing measures and overall safety will be a big component of the festival's look, Mr. Rulli said.

The grant comes out of $5 million in statewide funding through the "Take It Outside" program.

“Warren is very grateful to Governor Raimondo for this generous grant which will allow us to assist our restaurants and local merchants as we navigate through the new realities imposed on us due to this unfortunate pandemic," Warren Town Council president Keri Cronin said.

She added that a lot of the credit for the town's grant goes to Mr. Rulli, who "had four days from the time the grant opportunity was announced to when it needed to be submitted" to write up Warren's successful request.

"To see Warren, receive the same amount of funding as much larger municipalities speaks to the quality of our proposal,” she said.

What: Warren Walkabout re-invented as "Warren Walkabout - Six Sundays, Six Feet Apart"
When: Sunday, Oct. 25 through Sunday, Nov. 29. The last weekend will have events run Friday and Saturday, Nov. 27 and 28, as well
Where: Downtown Warren, Water Street, Cutler Mill
How: The event is being aided by a $75,000 non-matching grant from the State of Rhode Island
Who: The event is being coordinated by the Town of Warren, Discover Warren and the Warren Arts and Cultural Commission

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.