WESTERLY — Maybe it was the gray skies or the slight chill in the air, but SpringFest 2014 opened to a very sparse crowd. Still, the show went on.
Cirque de Solo, a.k.a. Linda Peck of Northfield, Mass., performed her juggling, balancing, one-woman circus promptly at 5 p.m., truly solo, in front of a tent of empty chairs.
“When I have an audience, it’s even better,” she said, sporting a bright smile and a bubble wand. A performing veteran of 30 years, even Peck’s sunny personality and hot pink irridescent suit wasn’t enough to chase away the threatening clouds.
People did eventually come to the fourth annual SpringFest, the unofficial opening of beach season in Misquamicut, and by 6 p.m. they were lining up outside the ticket booth. Located in the state beach parking lot, it’s an old-fashioned festival with rides, games, food, and entertainment.
Jody Scalise of Charlemont, Mass., performing as Motion Man, was similary unfazed by the low turnout early in the evening.
“I’m just happy to perform,” Scalise said during a break between his 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. shows. “I always do my show, no matter what. Sometimes I have 300 people, sometimes I have 50 people, sometimes I have three.”
Among Scalise’s early audience were a pair of kinetic little boys and two young ladies from Westerly, Emma Jarvis, 12, and Amber Lucente, 13. Both said Scalise was “pretty cool.”
The National Guard display was attracting a considerably older crowd with its climbing tower. Sgt. Ronald Spears, the Westerly recruiter, said the climbing walls are always popular. “It’s free, so might as well,” he said.
Spears, a 1999 graduate of Chariho High School, said sometimes people will stand around looking at the tower until one person is brave enough to try it. After that, they all try to conquer it.
“They go from not at all to challenging themselves,” said Spears.
The rides at SpringFest ranged from gentle kiddie rides to the are-you-kidding-that-would-make-me-vomit variety. Food offerings included gyros and apple crisp, alongside more traditional fair food like fried dough, french fries and — of course — the iconic Del’s lemonade.
The most unusual food vendor was Oikos yogurt, which handed out free samples from a vehicle shaped like a trio of yogurt containers. Other vendors also dotted the festival’s landscape, selling a variety of goods and services from jewelry and clothing to Internet service and help for aching backs.
By 6 p.m., fire juggler Keith Leaf of Long Island had attracted a crowd of about 30 people as he began his act, and the visitors were lining up at the front gate.
SpringFest continues today with a new entertainment schedule. There is a classic car show at 11 a.m., a chowder cookoff at 2 p.m. and a wrestling SlamFest at 8 p.m. For fans of Disney’s “Frozen,” there will also be a roving Princess Anna at 4 p.m.
Tickets are $7, and children under 4 are free. For more information, visit misquamicutfestival.org.
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