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(Pawtucket, R.I.) Slater Mill’s traditional end-of-summer party, Sam’s Mill Fest, promises a great time for all ages, where makers, artisans, historians, park rangers, gardeners, food trucks and the community converge for an outdoor concert by the river, and a free and open afternoon.
Sam’s Mill Fest shakes up this picturesque urban landscape in downtown Pawtucket on the last Sunday in August, and this year the legendary Detroit blues-rocker James Montgomery comes to town with his all-star band to push the sound board to its limits.
In all, four musical acts and twenty-two artisan vendors will entertain and engage those who take in the festival, but that’s not all “Samfest” has to offer.
The Slater Mill museum is open free, all day, with historians and National Park Service Rangers on hand to answer questions and guide you through.
Three food trucks – Rhody Roots, GottaQ Smokehouse BBQ, and Mum’s Donuts -- will be cooking to order on Slater Avenue. Palagis Ice Cream will come by with frozen treats, and Sam’s Gin Mill will serve up cold beverages including plenty of signature SAMgria.
The URI Master Gardeners will show visitors around their garden aside the 1758 Sylvanus Brown House, and offer advice and encouragement for growing hearty plants. Across the lawn, the RI Spinners’ Guild members will demonstrate their craft, spinning out their own colorful concoctions, while Suzi Ballenger makes paper and Steve Emma canes chairs as everyone looks on.
And the Ocean State Maker Mill brings the crowd-pleasing stomp rockets and other peculiarities of the maker type to entertain and amaze young and old.
“This is our sixth Samfest and we have really developed an event that attracts and keeps a crowd,” said Lori Urso, executive director of Old Slater Mill, who, along with her husband, drummer and RI Music Hall of Fame inductee Marty Richards, puts together the musical lineups each year.
“Plus it’s an opportunity to cover a lot of summer bases –a visit to Old Slater Mill, a family outing, a shopping opportunity, a summer concert, and a picnic in the park, all rolled into one!”
Sam’s Mill Fest runs from noon to 6. The food and activities, the museum tours, and the entertainment allow guests to stretch it into a full day aside the Blackstone River.
“When you’re on the Old Slater Mill campus, it can feel like you’re in another time,” said Urso. “It’s at least 10 feet lower than the main road, and embraced by three old buildings with a beautiful garden, green lawns, and the sound of the waterfall. It transports you.”
Central to the festival is the outdoor concert under a tent.
“The music is outstanding this year,” said Urso. “Of course there’s James Montgomery, but the other acts are equally spectacular, and arranged so that the energy ramps-up throughout the day.”
Kat Parks and Brad Bensko bring their Kat & Brad Band, fresh off a road trip celebrating the release of their new, self-titled CD. Drawing from 50s and 60s pop, American Songbook and much more, this happy duo channels these influences through two voices, a guitar, mandolin and violin, while their rhythm section propels their rootsy side.
From Boston, guitarist Bruce Bartlett blends his incredible guitar chops with Marty Rowan’s Hammond B3 sound for a bluesy-groovy set with Marty Richards on drums. Then comes the Mitch Chakour Band, for a set of high-energy R&B, with Chakour on the B3, and the amazing Cliff Goodwin on guitar.
James Montgomery Band takes the stage around four-thirty to close out the festival in high style.
The artisan community is well represented by Rhode Island favorites like Milkcan Industries, LnK Designs, Patty G Photos, and Freedom Jewelry, along with some festival newcomers.
“Some of our Samfest first-timers are Colemama Creations from eastern Connecticut, Live Free Fibers from Jamestown, and Silk Tree farms from Little Compton, and the diversity of the products is great,” said Eleanor Langham, deputy director of Slater Mill. “Cedar Ledge Apiaries is another new vendor, bringing locally sourced honey products. Something for everyone!”
Sam’s Mill Fest is presented in partnership with the City of Pawtucket, the National Park Service, the Carter Fund, and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Admission is Free. The campus is wheelchair accessible. Old Slater Mill National Historic Landmark, 67 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket, RI 02860.
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- Mayor Donald R. Grebien