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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Despite backlash about changes coming to this year’s PVDFest, Providence Mayor Brett Smiley said he’s excited to put the focus back on the arts.

The free outdoor arts festival, which was first held in 2015, attracts tens of thousands of people to the capital city each year.

Since its inception, PVDFest has taken place in June. But this year, Providence Mayor Brett Smiley said it will be held in September.

Smiley said he made the decision to move the three-day festival to September, when the capital city isn’t overwhelmed by other celebrations like Rhode Island PrideFest.

“One of our many goals, in addition to creating a great festival that puts Providence on the map and creates an audience for our local talent, is also to have an economic impact,” Smiley said.

Smiley said the hospitality industry expressed concern about a drop-off in revenue after Labor Day.

“There are not as many public events, hotel rooms are not as full, restaurants are not as full. There’s a lull,” he added.

Smiley joined other city officials Wednesday to announce programming details for the city’s signature outdoor arts festival, which will include gospel singer Mavis Staples as the headliner.

The mayor has received pushback to some of the changes he’s making, such as moving the festival closer to the Providence River in an effort to promote and better accommodate WaterFire.

“We had the opportunity to both use this great public space that providence has come to love,” Smiley said. “It is a five-minute or less walk to three neighborhoods at a minimum.”

One of the most controversial changes revolves around drinking, with no block parties or open containers allowed.

“We made a decision, and I’ll be clear, I made a decision to put the focus of this festival back on the arts, back on the performances, back on the experiences that families and residences can have,” Smiley said. “There are plenty of places for people to go get a drink. But the festival itself is not going to have open containers this year.”

Smiley added that the open container rule this year isn’t indicative of a permanent change to the festival.

“I see this as an evolution and I’m optimistic that this is going to be an exceptional PVDFest, but we will always continue to learn from our successes and from our mistakes and iterate moving forward,” Smiley said.

Alexandra Leslie ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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