Gaspee Days CommitteeHistory Files
Hoot Hartmann c1967Interesting Events of the Last (First) 25 Years

By Virginia Agresti

Gaspee Days 25th Anniversary Commemorative Program, 1990

Right: 'Hoot' Hartmann handing out refreshment at the c1967 Parade.

1968: A small group, largely made up of committee members, decided to build a float. Since it would take about three months to complete Nick Agresti agreed to let them use his garage to build it. The group called themselves "Crew 72". The float was made mostly of chicken wire and paper napkins inserted by hand, left Nick's garage on the morning of the parade and won all the prizes.

After the parade it was brought back to the Agresti property and stayed for a week, sitting on a flat bed in front of the house until it had finally been dismantled.

The next year Nick was again asked to donate his garage. He agreed under one condition - once the float left for the parade, it could not return. Nick did not want a repeat of the previous year. After the parade, "Crew 72" hauled the float to Salter Grove for safekeeping. The next day, they decided the best way to dispose of it was to burn it. Thus the Reenactment of the Burning of the Gaspee was born.

This practice continued until the State Department of Environmental Management ruled that open burning was prohibited. At this time, Blount Marine built a metal silhouette.

1970: "Crew 72" enters its paper and wire float in the Bristol 4th of July parade and wins prizes.

1970 to 1975: In order to raise funds to build the float, "Crew 72" decided to had a yearly event called The Beer Bust. This was held at various locations such as Rhodes on the Pawtuxet, Edgewood Yacht Club and Stanley Green's. There were some very interesting ways to enter the Beer Bust. One year the ticket was enclosed in a plastic ball that patrons needed to smash in order to enter. The advertising slogan was "Come Bust your Balls at the Gaspee Beer Bust". When "Crew 72" disbanded, the Gaspee Committee continued to run the event for several years.

1972 to 1981: For many years, the two political parties in Warwick worked hard to to make Gaspee Days a success. The Republicans held an annual clambake in Salter Grove that was so popular that it had to be limited to 300 people. The Democrats tried their hands at a Chicken Barbecue, Carnival, and Golf Tournament.

1972 to 1985: Elected officials from Cranston and Warwick would annually have a softball game against the Gaspee Raiders (committee members). This was always held at one of the area fields.

1975 to 1977: Another event that was tremendously popular was the Johnnycake Breakfast held at Pawtuxet Baptist Church, Pawtuxet Athletic Club, and Shrine Club. It was held during the Arts 8r Crafts Festival and the best Johnnycakes were always made by Myrtle Dunn.

1976: In September, Dick Beneduce is installed as President. One week later a frantic phone call informs him that the Gaspee silhouette broke its mooring, and is out at sea headed for Barrington. His first act as President is to retrieve it before history can repeat itself

1977: The first of the seven Moonlight Cruises was held on the Bay Queen. It was a sellout with more than 300 tickets sold. It was decided that the ship would follow the same path as the Gaspee - north into the Bay, pass Gaspee Point, and out again. Cruise Chairwoman Virginia Agresti had solicited her teen aged sons, David and John, to set a small bonfire when the ship passed. The Pawtuxet Rangers were also on the Point to fire a volley on their cannon.

As the ship passed the Point, 300 people stared in amazement as 100 feet of Gaspee Point was in flames! Virginia, assuming the worst, expected to see her sons in jail. As it turned out, Henry Brown had an old shack in the area that he wanted to dispose of. David, John, and Henry tore the shack apart and set the whole thing on fire.

The cruise was a success for many years with different themes, such as Hawaiian Night (with hula dancers), Near East Night (with belly dancers), but, thankfully, no more fires.

1978: One of our annual events was the Miss Gaspee Contest where contestants from 18 to 25 years of age were invited to submit an essay on a topic chosen by the committee. The ten semi-finalists went into a pageant and the winner was crowned "Miss Gaspee". In 1978, for the first time, a young man decided to enter. Since the entrance rules never stated that a contestant had to be female, the Committee decided that the young man be allowed to enter. In past years, the pageant had been attended by small audiences. This year, however, the William Hall Library was filled to overflow capacity. The pageant went off without a hitch and the young man finished second. He was referred to as the second place winner of the Miss Gaspee contest.

1981: For the second time, the parade is reversed - it begins at Rhodes and ends at the North Country Club Drive playground. This year we try something new - everything is held on one weekend. The Arts & Crafts Festival is held Friday, Saturday, and Sunday under tents. The parade on Saturday is followed by a barbecue, muster, concerts, foot races, and food. Since the field was roped off, we were able to charge a small admission. This idea actually made money but there was such opposition to running the parade the wrong way that it was never done again.

Back to Top    |    Back to Gaspee Days Committee History files
Rev. 4/2009    InterestingEvents.htm