City officials mull grants to PVDFest vendors  

PVDFEST vendors could be receiving $500 grants to reimburse them for lost revenue during September’s truncated festival. / COURTESY PVDFEST

PROVIDENCE – The City Council on Thursday unanimously approved a motion to move a request to the Finance Committee that could give $500 grants to 81 vendors effected by the cancellation of a portion of September’s PVD Fest due to poor weather conditions. 

The motion “to compensate vendors who participated in PVDFest2023 and experienced damages during the storm” on Sept. 10 was submitted by council President Rachel Miller, who was absent due to illness, authorizes approval of a $42,000 change order to the $200,000 one-year contract awarded to festival organizer First Works back in May. 

No discussion on the item was held. Councilors waived the reading of the resolution before passing it on a voice vote. The item was referred to finance, which is scheduled to take up the matter on Nov. 7. 

A call seeking comment from First Works was not immediately returned. 

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The revised contract would be increased to $242,000 to compensate craft vendors, according to a memorandum of understanding posted with the agenda, which would authorize a 50% split between city funds and the R.I. Business Loan Fund managed by  R.I. Commerce Corp. 

Each entity would provide $20,250, according to the agreement, amounting to $250 to each vendor from each entity. First Works, whose contract includes a one-year option to renew, will be responsible for dispensing the funds. 

Commerce spokesperson Matthew Touchette on Friday said the organization recognizes  “the important role these local vendors have in our economy.”

“They rely on such events as PVDFest to assist in paying bills and continue incorporating their creativity into their business,” he said.

Torrential rains forced vendors and festival attendees to shelter in place on Sept. 9 and Sept. 10, and officials canceled the remainder on Sept. 10 after a flash flood warning moved through the area. 

Judith Barrett, owner of Providence-based Candles by Judith LLC, is among the vendors that could be receiving a $500 grant. She said no one from the city has reached out to her about any financial assistance related to PVD Fest, where rain that soaked through her tent damaged an estimated $600 worth of inventory.

While “every bit helps,” Barrett doesn’t think the amount is enough to make many vendors whole. 

“I know people who lost more than $1,000,” she said.  

Mayor Brett P. Smiley faced some push back for moving the date of the event from June to September, and other changes including holding the festival at the 195 District Park instead of its usual downtown location. 

The administration previously estimated the cost of PVDFest between $750,000 and $800,000, with the city contributing $250,000.

Christopher Allen is a PBN staff writer. You may contact him at 

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