Smiley responds after the weather disrupts PVDFest

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (WPRI) — Mayor Brett Smiley is defending the city’s response to Sunday’s stormy weather, which caused PVDFest to be interrupted.

“I am very disappointed with the weather and its impact,” Smiley said during a news conference on Tuesday.

When the outdoor arts festival kicked off on Friday evening, the weather was hot and humid. But by Saturday, rain and lightning began to disrupt the event.

Programming was postponed by an hour and a half on Saturday, and around 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, the mayor called for the final three hours of the festival to be cancelled.

Smiley was asked what role this year’s change of venue to 195 District Park, along South Main Street and South Water Street, played in clearing out the event.

Festival-goers and vendors were asked to evacuate to parking garages on Eddy and South Main streets, as well as inside Plant City on South Water Street.

Smiley told reporters that he was nonetheless satisfied with the planning that went into choosing those locations, and explained how vendors who had to pay table set-up fees could be compensated for the time lost.

“I’m really sympathetic to the harm that’s been done to businesses and we’re working to see what resources might be available,” he said. “We’re in information gathering mode now to see how we can either make resources available or if it becomes a specific event, there might be compensation available from the federal government or otherwise.”

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Smiley previously said the weekend in September was chosen to help the hospitality industry. He said conversations with hotels and restaurants indicated they were somewhat quiet the weekend after Labor Day, so changing the date was an attempt to boost business, but he also said the city was open to feedback moving forward.

When Smiley announced the changes to the festival last June, he told reporters that the city expected about 100,000 people to attend. He did not have full attendance numbers to share Tuesday.

“We know it was tens of thousands, and we don’t have a better estimate than that. We will soon,” Smiley said.

The city will review drone footage and make attendance estimates about crowd size based on aerial photos, a process the city has used in the past, the mayor said.

He said it will be difficult to make comparisons to past years because of the heat, rain and lightning causing disruptions, but the city plans to share estimated attendance numbers in the coming weeks.

Alexandra Leslie ( is an investigative reporter for Target 12 covering Providence and more for 12 News. Contact her on X, formerly known as Twitter And on Facebook.

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