bowens wharf christmas tree lighting

Forty-five years ago this week a young man drove up to New Hampshire with a backhoe trailer and returned with a giant tree for Bowen’s Wharf.

Christmas in Newport was born that first week in December, along with that young man’s first son. “Americas’ Cup Avenue was dark and unfinished, there were loads of boarded-up buildings but we had a sense that a bright future lay ahead,” recalls Bart Dunbar, president of Bowen’s Wharf Company. “The white lights and a huge tree as a centerpiece on the waterfront struck a chord with a lot of Navy people. Also, a lot of civic pride emerged from that celebration.” The celebration continues today!

In the 17th and 18th centuries the commercial center of town was exactly where Bowen’s and Bannister’s Wharves are located today. In the intervening centuries Newport fared rather well but by the mid-1950’s Newport faced infrastructure challenges aplenty. Hurricanes and economic setbacks resulted in more than just a few signs of decay.

“The obstacles were enormous, arguments bitter, and the heaviest decisions concerned the condemning of properties in order to create a viable commercial center and an arterial road,” writes Rockwell Stensrud in his recently released paperback edition of Newport-A Lively Experiment: 1639-1969. There was good reason to devise a joyful waterfront celebration in 1971 and today the merchants of Bowen’s Wharf continue the tradition.

This Saturday, December 5th, at 6pm sharp, thousands of sparkling white lights will illuminate the 30-foot tree at the historic wharf during the 45th Annual Bowen’s Wharf Christmas Tree Lighting. The whole family can join in caroling, meeting Frosty the Snowman, Santa, and Mrs. Claus at ‘The North Pole’.

Visitors and locals are encouraged to make a day of it with lunch or dinner reservations or by taking a walking tour through Newport’s Old Quarter.

Shop Saturdays at Bowen’s Wharf starts this weekend. Local business owners offer in-store promotions, gift-wrapping and other perks. Meander through the waterfront where businesses and galleries are open until 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays through the month.

Festivities begin at 4:30 pm with Frosty the Snowman. The Christmas Carol Sing-a-long begins at 5 pm, the Mayor lights the tree at 6 pm immediately followed by Santa and Mrs. Claus arriving by boat (weather permitting). Join us for a magical evening of charm, fun, and good cheer. Some businesses will offer free refreshments, early afternoon caroling, and shopping specials — all are decorated for the season! The Bowen’s Wharf parking lot will be open until 4 pm the day of the tree lighting.

During the rest of the winter season two hours of validated parking on site are available from participating Bowen’s Wharf merchants. There is free parking at designated locations throughout the city of Newport.

Holidays by the Sea: Shop, Dine, Stay & Explore. Complete list of businesses and event details at www.BowensWharf.com.

Call Bowen’s Wharf Pilot House (401) 849-3478 for tickets to mansions, museums, forts, seal watch tours and event information. All books sold at the Pilot House are 15% off this month, and 10% off ornaments.

Ryan Belmore is the Publisher of What'sUpNewp. 
Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly readers in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and an honorable mention in the Common Good Awards in 2021.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Belmore graduated from Coventry High School and the Community College of Rhode Island. In addition to living in Newport for 10 years, he has lived in Portsmouth, Coventry, Providence, Smithfield, Burrillville, and East Greenwich.

Belmore currently serves as Vice President of the Board Of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and on the Board of Directors for Potter League For Animals. He previously served on the Board of Lucy's Hearth and the Arts & Cultural Alliance for Newport County.

Belmore and his wife, Jen, currently live in Alexandria, Virginia, a move they made in 2021. Read more about that here - https://whatsupnewp.com/2021/09/letter-from-the-publisher-some-personal-news/

Belmore visits Newport every couple of weeks to support the 12+ paid contributors What'sUpNewp has on the ground across Rhode Island, a place he called home for 39 years.

Belmore is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, Society of Professional Journalists, and the North American Snowsports Journalists Association.

In 2020, Belmore was named Member of the Year by LION and won the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Newport County's Dominque Award.
Belmore can be contacted at ryan@whatsupnewp.com and 401-662-1653.