Putnam River Fire Returns For Its Second Big Year

    Get ready to enjoy our river ambiance with a stroll along the Putnam River Trail to the concert sounds of WINY. Get in the River Fire mood - it's a special time here in Putnam, Connecticut. Make it a night - Dine in our downtown or picnic in the park. Click here for the details.
Saturday July 22
Saturday August 12
Saturday September 9
Saturday October 21.

Last summer the Putnam Parks & Recreation Department set the Quinebaug River on fire and people gathered by the thousands to see it. The inaugural lighting of Putnam's "River Fire" was August 20, 2005 as part of the town's 150th anniversary celebration. Twenty bonfires blazed in containers floating on the Quinebaug River from Cargill Falls to Bridge Street.

Music specially produced for the event by local radio station WINY-1350am was simulcast from 15 speakers that lined the river's edge. Quiet Corner residents and visitors picnicked on Rotary Park's green lawns, relaxed on park benches, or strolled along the riverside and across Bridge Street, which was closed to traffic for the event. Adults and children alike enjoyed the flickering light, the night music and the sociable ambiance of this community gathering. The Putnam River Fire event was a dream of WINY's owner and general manager Gary Osbrey for seven years. Osbrey and Putnam Park & Recreation Director Willie Bousquet pitched the idea to local government several years in a row, but the money to fund the event was not available. Finally, last year for Putnam's Sesquicentennial Celebration, the town budget supplied the funding and Putnam's River Fire was born.

River Fire music is compiled by Osbrey and his wife, Karen, co-owner and sales manager for WINY. Together they spend long hours gathering an eclectic mix of new age, classical and contemporary sounds, which includes everything from Gregorian chants t Israel Kamakawiwo'ole to Andrea Bocelli. "Our goal is to present a relaxing and interesting sound that is completely different from the din of everyday life, says Osbrey. "We picture people relaxing, thinking and reflecting while listening to our selections."

Bousquet considered Putnam's first River Fire "overwhelmingly successful" with about 3,000 in attendance including locals and people "from Worcester to Norwich." The second lighting in September drew 1,000 and Bousquet believes the four lightings scheduled for 2006 will gather similar crowds. Downtown Putnam businesses-especially restaurants--should see increased traffic for these evenings, and hopefully retailers will extend their hours to take advantage of the additional traffic. Bousquet encourages people to bring lawn chairs and snacks or a picnic although there will be food and drink concessions on hand.

Putnam's River Fires are free and open to the public. Bridge Street is closed off these evenings and provides the best viewing. Fires are lit at dusk or near dark and last for approximately 1.5 to 2 hours. Each lighting offers some live entertainment or theme (in addition to WINY simulcast) and is coupled with a non-profit/charity event. "Putnam's River Fires will continue to grow and become a signature event for the town," says Osbrey. "Everyone should experience River Fire at least once."

Excerpt from the July 2006 issue of the Putnam Traveler

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