Above: Summer’s End in 2014.
Like so many events, Summer’s End was a Covid casualty in 2020 and 2021. Unfortunately, the annual concert at Eldredge Field the Friday of Labor Day weekend may not be back this year or ever. In a recent interview, Board Chair Tom Perrelli said the small Summer’s End organization just didn’t have the bandwidth to pull off such a major event.
“We have a budget. We have the money to do it,” he said. “We didn’t have the help.”
Although many people think otherwise, Summer’s End is NOT a town event. The town has supported the event by way of a small yearly grant and help from police and fire, but the event itself has been organized by residents.
The concert started in 1996 featuring the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, made possible by a dedicated group of volunteers and some considerable corporate underwriting support. The corporate support was harder to come by in later years, especially after the national economic meltdown in 2008, and in 2012 the SE board invited the Navy Pops Ensemble to perform in place of the costly RI Phil (Navy bands perform for free).
The Navy band came back every year through 2019 and local musicians would take the stage earlier in the evening. It was always a festive atmosphere, with some attendees organizing giant picnics and others happy just to listen to the music. It was a positively magical night for children, who ran around as if they’d never run before.
Remarkably, the concert was never canceled or postponed due to weather.
Perrelli said the hope last year had been to make Summer’s End a two-day festival, with many more vendors and events. Ultimately, there was still too much Covid uncertainty and by the time it seemed like an outdoor event like Summer’s End could go on, there wasn’t enough time to pull it off.
This year, board members began to peel off and suddenly there were just a couple people left – and way too much work.
“It all just started falling apart. We lost all the momentum,” Perrelli said.
Community Services Director Andy Wade said he was sorry he’d never attended the event – he only started working in East Greenwich in 2021.
“The town is definitely open to exploring opportunities to host such a community-oriented event again in the future,” he said. “Putting on an event of that scale is a challenge for any one group; finding dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers to consistently offer their time and efforts year after year is becoming a rarity. I have much respect for what was accomplished with Summer’s End for so many years. Everyone that I have talked to about past Summer’s End events have spoken about them with great fondness.”
Noting the upcoming work to renovate Eldredge Field/Park, Wade said, “It may not be a bad time to allow for the work to be completed and at its conclusion work to find a way to bring the event back to town. The redesign of the park was done keeping the possibility of hosting large events in mind, so if the right circumstances present themselves at the right time in the future I would fully support an attempt to deliver either a reboot of Summer’s End or another event focused on providing a positive experience for East Greenwich residents of all ages.”