Joanne’s Journey: St. Mary’s Feast was Delicious, Balloon Festival Was Just Hot Air


Join us every week as Joanne journeys across Rhode Island
reviewing events, restaurants and local businesses. Let’s see the
best, the worst, and those in between as she shows us what’s really
going on in RI.

St. Mary’s Feast, Cranston

Every year St. Mary’s Church in Cranston celebrates their feast on the
streets of Knightsville. I decided to visit this annual family friendly event this past Saturday night. The weather was a bit cool but just right for a packed crowd of several hundred people. Scattered across the grounds were food trucks, concession stands, assorted vendors, and plenty of music.

When I arrived, it was difficult to park. Cars were lined all the way up on Cranston Street and Park Avenue. We finally found a spot and had to walk a bit. But we got to see the local
businesses which were all lit up with colored lights. Decorated tables and tents adorned the area where local restaurant 39 West is located, and their parking lot was full of people dancing and eating, with a live band playing.

As the band played “Oh What a Night”, I remembered my childhood days going to the very same feast. It was a much smaller event in those days, but always crowded.

Memories are made at the feast. In 30 years these children will be bringing their own children here.

As we got to enter the feast grounds, the smell of sausage and peppers dominated the air. There were long lines at the food stands. The doughboys called my name. I ventured to the fried dough truck to get my doughboy covered in powdered sugar. Of course, that is
what I went for!

It made me think of when my mother took my siblings and I. It was a bittersweet feeling.

Who doesn’t love corn dogs?

In the gazebo, the Reggie Centracchio Band played and Jennifer Mainelli was singing. One thing about Little Rhody is you get to know everyone and who’s who.

The back tent of the feast featured the main event, “Tribeca”. People were dancing and having fun even though it was so crowded it was hard to find a seat and hard to walk around.

Something for Everyone

The kiddie rides were full and the smell of all kinds of food left a mist of smoke in the air. Barbecued chicken, pork and French Fries seemed to be the favorite. The homemade cannoli line was so long. It practically circled the feast grounds!

Local vendors sold jewelry and hats, and plenty of toys and inflatables for the kids.

A nice night. Good food. Cool friends. A good time had by all!

This event offered something for everyone. And, whatever that giant, fresh pineapple drink that I saw was, it looked great. But that had to be hard to carry around a packed crowd.

I’d have to say this event was a success for the St. Mary’s Feast organization. That’s no surprise, since everyone involved works hard to put this on every year. (One thing I forgot to buy was my annual “Ciao Baby” black

All in all it was a good event and worth the trip. It was a
free event and everyone is always welcome.

The South County Balloon Festival, North Kingstown

On Saturday in the early afternoon, I took a ride to the South County Balloon Festival on the grounds of the URI campus. 

The Balloon Festival is an annual event and I am obsessed with hot air balloons, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

It took us a long time to get there, since we got caught in some beach traffic. It also was quite a long walk from the parking lot near the Ryan Center to the fields of the URI campus.

Not much doing at the Hot Air Balloon Festival.

I really didn’t see many seniors there. And I don’t blame them, or anyone else for that matter who is challenged to walk comfortably.

Also, when we got on the campus, there were no signs anymore and we rode around in circles until we found the sports field.

Few Balloons, Plenty of Hot Air

Admission was $10 per person. A paper band was put on our wrist as
we paid to get in. I immediately started to walk to see the hot air balloons and what I saw was disappointing.

There were two hot air balloons on the ground tipped over sideways. I asked someone what happened. I was told it was too windy for hot air balloons, and that they were grounded. Talk about boots on the ground, well this was balloons on the ground. Two balloons, to be exact.

Grounded Balloons

The only thing in the sky was a balloon kite which I could have flown myself at home. Now I understand the weather conditions changed, but hey this was supposed to be the 40th South County Hot Air Balloon Festival. Where were the balloons?

The admission of $10 per person was a rip off. There was also a sign
that the fireworks that had been planned for Saturday night were cancelled. I don’t know what that was about but that was disappointing to see, too.

Fireworks cancelled. No Balloons. How wonderful! But the attendance charges weren’t eliminated or reduced. 

The attendance was sparse.

There were plenty of food trucks and kiddie rides. We ordered two sausage and onion
sandwiches and a water. The total cost was $23. How are middle class families supposed to afford this? 

All in all it cost us $43, and we didn’t see a Hot Air Balloon in the air or standing on the ground for display. My suggestion is that if you advertise it as such and can’t fulfill what you advertise, then don’t charge people $10 admission. And do your best to inform the media so they can get the word out that things have changed.

People paid admission, paid for food, and paid for rides. Nothing is free at this
festival and a no show of balloons in any fashion at all.

It was not worth the journey.

Maybe next year? Nah, I don’t think so!

Joanne Giannini
Joanne Giannini is a former State Representative from Providence. A freelance journalist, consultant and writer, she has previously written commentary for The Providence journal, GolocalProv and WPRO radio. Contact her at


  1. I know that years ago, there was a hot air balloon festival near the State House (somewhere I have a picture of it). I worked on the 7th floor of a building and had a bird’s eye view. With all the buildings in the area, one can barely see the State House anymore. Now some idiots want to use up some of the State House land – I say, leave it alone!! Coming or going into Providence, our beautiful State House stood out. Now it can barely be seen.
    That’s progress? Half empty condo buildings, a mall that’s in a lousy place (nobody thought of on-line shopping??), no forethought as to technology as more & more retailers go out of business or downsize.
    As usual, R.I. missed the boat.

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