WESTERLY — While some mark Memorial Day as the unofficial beginning of summer, the thousands who flock to Misquamicut Beach this weekend consider SpringFest to be the bellwether of the beach season.
The three-day beachside festival, now in its fifth year, is the successful brainchild of the Misquamicut Business Association. The festival features a mix of music, magic, and a chock-fill midway of carnival rides —a Ferris wheel included — with fireworks, wrestling matches, a petting zoo, pony rides and classic car shows.
“You know summer’s coming when you see the carnival rides headed to the beach in the trailers,” chuckled Caswell Cooke Jr., executive director of the MBA as he made final preparations for the weekend’s extravaganza. “The beach is officially open.”
“This is our fifth anniversary, which means it’s become a tradition,” he added. “They say a tradition is made after five years.”
Cooke said there are several new pieces added to this year’s SpringFest, including performances by jesters Michael and Shane Miclon, the father-son team who have entertained regularly at the Chorus of Westerly’s “Celebration of Twelfth Night.”
“It’s good to mix things up and to keep things fresh,” said Cooke. “We’ve always got something new.”
Cooke, a musician himself, who’s known locally for his interest in good, old fashioned Rock n’ Roll bands and music, said he’s particularly excited about this year’s music lineup, which features the Cowsills and Jay Taylor.
The Cowsills found fame in the 1960s when the Newport-based family — brothers Bill, Bob, Barry, John and Paul and their seven-year old sister Susan — recorded “Indian Lake,” “Hair,” and “The Rain, The Park and Other Things,” the catchy tune often called “The Flower Girl Song.” They served as the real-life models for television’s “The Partridge Family.”
“This is the first time for the Cowsills to perform at Springfest,” said Cooke. “I like to think of them as a Rhode Island band and this as their homecoming.”
“Plus, I love the local connection and you know how I love to bring back all the originals,” Cooke said with a laugh, noting that Westerly resident Fred Presley is a first cousin to the Cowsill clan.
Paul Cowsill, speaking from his home in Oregon, said that he will be joined on stage by his sister, Susan, and his brother John for Saturday’s show.
“We call ourselves the Trio Show,” Cowsill said. “We are quite the threesome. A real hoot.”
“We have a lot of fun and like to interact with the audience,” he added. “We’re really excited to be able to do the show and to be back in Rhode Island.”
“We’re going to be doing a whole lot of singing,” said Cowsill. “Our early hits and some folk tunes. Folk is really where we started. Back in the hootenanny days.”
Taylor, a Floridian, was a contestant on NBC’s “The Voice,” and has been gaining popularity ever since.
“He is an up and coming talent,” said Cooke. “I know we’ll be hearing about him in the months ahead. We’ll have an established group and an up and coming star.”
Also performing will be Westerly native Sammy Brown; Eric Narwhal and The Manatees; Rewind; Gary Pom and Tribute; Jason Cardinal, and The Johnny Press Mess Band.
“Plus we have a petting zoo, karate demonstrations, wrestling matches and magicians,” added Cooke. “Lots of magic this year.”
But perhaps the biggest draw will come in the form of royalty Cooke said, when Queen Elsa and Princess Anna, characters from Disney’s popular movie “Frozen,” make their appearance.
Misquamicut SpringFest kicks off Friday from 5 to 11 p.m., and continues Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $7 and free for children 3 and under. Parking is free.
For a full schedule of events, visit misquamicutfestival.org.