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Providence WaterFire

Water Fire ProvidenceRhode Island’s Gem, “WaterFire”, a festival that brings hundreds of thousands of visitors into the capital city of Providence each year.  Originally an idea created by Barnaby Evans in 1993 for Berlin, turned into a work of art to celebrate the 10th anniversary of First Night Providence.  The next fire was lit in June 1996 for the International Sculpture Conference which was when ardent art supporters convinced Evans to create an ongoing fire installation.  Barnaby Evans decided then to start a grass roots efforts to establish WaterFire as a non-profit arts organization.

Each ceremony is different in its own way.  They all begin at the RI State House at sunset.  On the steeps of the State House the sponsors of that particular WaterFire give a speech, perform, or introduce each event.  From here the crowd follows the sponsors and the flames down towards Water Place Park and the Providence River.  This is were the sponsors and special guests begin to light the rest of the torches placed in a circle around the basin.  During the ceremony music chosen by the creator Barnaby Evans is played. The music differs from a variety of ritual, religious and nature.  Special orchestras and singers have also been known to perform during the events.  Those attending this free festival can choose to ether watch the flames from above  on the banks of the Providence river or choose to ride around on the Providence River Boat  or romantic gondola, on the river.  We have experienced both and they are good options but book ahead.

There are fire twirlers and actors that dress up like gargoyles or statues who stand still around the river, they are the perfect stop to take a picture!  Each WaterFire Festival is different with special themes These themes correlate with the specific set of events that occur throughout the festival.  There have been performances by local theaters, famous composers, and local dance companies.  Last year WaterFire started to offer free dance classes during the festivals at the corner of Weybossett and Westminster Streets.  WaterFire is not just a lighting of the basins, it is so much more than that. It is a festival that gathers people from all over to enjoy what Providence has to offer.  Local shops, artisans, restaurants, and beverage sellers come together to sell their crafts.  Some of the Lightings are sponsored by Brown, Alex and Ani, Providence College, Volvo, National Grid, Banks, and other Foundations.  There is even a special lighting for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. The Beautiful white marble capital building is light up in Pink at that time.   Here is a list of the sponsors and their specific dates click for the latest  WaterFire Schedule.


A full lightning includes more than 80 braziers from the Providence Place Mall all the way down the river.  A Basin Lighting includes the circle of twenty-two braziers in the Waterplace Park and the twelve braziers leading up to the Providence Place. A full lighting includes all of the exciting events that go from sunset to half past midnight.  It is worth the travel to Providence, Rhode Island!

Did you known that Historic Jacob Hill Inn has our own WaterFire Grand Suite!  Our most popular suite is equipped with a wall fountain just above the Jacuzzi for two and fireplace to watch while you soak.  This room also has a private sitting room with another fireplace, and amazing views of the property.  If you are a guest staying during a WaterFire Festival we also have directions to our “hidden” parking area which is away from the crowds and will help you avoid the traffic! Remember Historic Jacob Hill Inn is only a 10 minute drive to Providence.

WaterFire is about celebrating the beauty of Providence and about gathering together in one place to preserve and create memories.  The original is always worth seeing, for no other city can say they are the destination of the first WaterFire.