'WaterFire' Lights Up Providence

Schedule of Events for Providence's Signature Event

WaterFire Bonfire
© 2010 Kim Knox Beckius

WaterFire is a free art installation in Providence, Rhode Island, that is being mounted a dozen times in the summer and early fall of 2017. While this nearly 500-year-old city, one of America's oldest, once emptied out at sundown, millions have since stayed to witness the mesmerizing bonfires of WaterFire since its inception in 1994. Millions more visit the city just to witness this peaceful spectacle.

Symbol of Providence's Renaissance

The award-winning sculpture by Barnaby Evans installed on the three rivers of downtown Providence, has been praised by Rhode Island residents and visitors as a powerful work of art and a moving symbol of Providence’s renaissance. WaterFire’s bonfires, the aroma of wood smoke, the firelight on the arched bridges over the rivers, the silhouettes of the fire tenders (torch bearers) adding wood to the enormous floating iron braziers where the flames burn, the torch-lit vessels traveling down the river, and the opera music accompanying it all delight those who meander through Waterplace Park.

"WaterFire has captured the imagination of over 10 million visitors, bringing life to downtown, and revitalizing Rhode Island’s capital city," say organizers of what has become Providence's signature event.

In response to growing attendance, WaterFire expanded from one brazier in 1994 to 81 braziers in 1998, 97 braziers in 1999, and 100 bonfires by the end of 1999 in a special WaterFire lighting for the millennium celebrations.

12 WaterFire Lightings in 2017

In 2017, there are 12 WaterFire lightings in Providence.

This includes two partial lightings on April 28 and July 20, when fire tenders light 22 braziers in the Waterplace Park Basin and 12 braziers leading up to Providence Place mall.

There are then 10 full lightings from May 19 through November 4. These full WaterFire installations light up more than 80 braziers from Waterplace Park to Memorial and South Main Street Park. Lighting occurs about 20 minutes after sunset and continues until past midnight as the fires burn out.

Please note that fire regulations do not permit folding chairs on any of the river walks to ensure safe passage. So leave your chairs in the car and explore WaterFire on foot.

Every year, WaterFire attracts nearly 1 million visitors to downtown Providence to experience this sculptural art installation. Visitor spending around the event pumps $113 million annually into local businesses and $9 million into state tax coffers; to date, it has also created about 1,300 jobs in the Providence area. Success breeds emulation, and already Kansas City and Columbus, Ohio, have mounted their own WaterFire productions.

Stay Over in Providence or Explore the Region

To visit Providence for WaterFire, you'll find information at WaterFire.org on the event, transportation, parking, hotels, restaurants, and other local attractions. The addendum WaterFire site, IgniteProvidence.com, lists activities and events in and around Providence on WaterFire weekends to help visitors explore the picturesque surrounding region, from the storied mansions and the legendary jazz festival of Newport to the craft breweries of historic Pawtucket.

2017 WaterFire Schedule

Friday, April 28, sunset at 7:41 p.m. (partial lighting)

Friday, May 19, sunset at 8:03 p.m.

Saturday, May 27, sunset at 8:10 p.m.

Saturday, June 10, sunset at 8:20 p.m.

Saturday, June 24, sunset at 8:25 p.m.

Saturday, July 8, sunset at 8:22 p.m.

Thursday, July 20, sunset at 8:15 p.m. (partial lighting)

Saturday, July 22, sunset at 8:14 p.m.

Saturday, August 5, sunset at 7:59 p.m.

Saturday, September 23, sunset at 6:41 p.m.

Saturday, September 30, sunset at 6:29 p.m.

Saturday, November 4, sunset at 5:36 p.m.

Note: Additional dates may be announced based on fundraising efforts.

Was this page helpful?