WARWICK, RI — The Gaspee Days Walking Tour, the usual kickoff point for Gaspee Day events starring students garbed in period attire, telling the stories of colonial Pawtuxet Village, has been cancelled without enough registered.
Usually, said Toni Andersen, who has been organizing the 23-year old event for seven years, she needs at least 55 kids to sign up for the event, which requires commitment to rehearsals and to perform on the days of the tour. Monday night, as Andersen weighed her options, waiting for another few dozen kids to sign up, she only had 25. The parents of students who had signed up, some of whom were counting on the tour as an after-school activity, needed to know soon if they should make other plans. Andersen couldn’t figure out how to make it happen with so few signed on. Twenty-five kids had committed to speaking parts, with two non-speaking extras committed, and three volunteers. Thirty people total. But not enough.
“You just can’t tell the story if you only have 25 kids,” Anderson said.
Today would have been the Gaspee Days Walking Tour orientation for the students.
The Walking Tour has only been cancelled two other years in its history, those being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Andersen, who has been participating in the event since her son, Chase, acted in it during second grade 11 years ago, was not happy with canceling it this time. This year, Chase is a freshman in college, and still loves the event, but the enthusiasm wasn’t apparent among younger Warwick residents this year.
Earlier in the history of the tour, more than 100 would sign up, and the tour spanned 40 historic sites throughout Pawtuxet Village. But that enthusiasm has been focused increasingly on sports and other pursuits among the city’s younger residents.
“All the stories could be told if we had the enough people to do it,” Andersen said.
She said she began promoting and recruiting signups with flyers, email, Facebook posts and was actively seeking children to do the tour right up until Monday, when she resigned herself to cancelling.
“In the past, what we’ve done has always been enough, and this year it wasn’t enough,” Anderson said. Next year, hopefully, will be different.
“I’m not convinced the Walking Tour is dead. Just this year, it’s going to take a hiatus,” Andersen said.
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