Economic Development Press Releases

Black Ships Return To Bristol In 2019

October 4, 2018

BRISTOL, RI-Today, the Town of Bristol and Japan-America Society of Rhode Island (JASRI) announced that the Black Ships Festival will be returning to Bristol in 2019.

“The Town of Bristol is pleased to help bring back the Black Ships Festival for a second year,” said Steven Contente, Bristol’s Town Administrator. “We look forward to working with the organization as the host community.”

The 2018 Black Ships Festival, which was hosted from July 13-July 15, included an Opening Ceremony, Martial Arts & Crafts Fair, Taiko Drum Concert and Gala. Over the course of the weekend, the festival had a combined crowd of 3,514 and local economic impact of over $100,000. Out of the attendees surveyed, 70.8% said the festival was the main reason for visiting downtown, Bristol.

“The Town of Bristol is excited to be supporting an event that boosts our local economy and brings visitors into our different storefronts,” said Chris Vitale, Bristol’s Economic Development Coordinator. “Our goal is to help make next year’s event even more successful.”

The three-day Black Ships celebration commemorates Commodore Matthew Perry, a Newport native who successfully negotiated the first trade treaty with Japan. Although the festival began in Newport, Dr. Patrick Conley, the General Counsel and Executive Board Member of JASRI, pushed for the move to Bristol because of the Perry family’s local heritage.

Dr. Conley, who also serves as Rhode Island’s Historian Laureate, noted, “Commodore Matthew Perry was the brother of Navy commander Raymond Perry, and the brother of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the hero of the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie. Raymond Perry married Marianne DeWolf, youngest daughter of James DeWolf, who gave the couple a 36-acre estate on Hope Street along Silver Creek. The 1680 Bosworth house where the Perrys lived still stands. In addition to that property, a portion of which is occupied by Thomas Park, Raymond inherited Hog Island from his father-in-law in 1837. Matthew and Oliver visited Raymond’s Bristol home frequently and stayed there when the Perry brothers built a warship in Warren. Raymond’s grandson, Reverend James DeWolf Perry, was a long-time Episcopal bishop of Rhode Island and for nearly eight years the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in America. The Perry family owned the Bosworth- Perry House until 1957.”

The 36th Annual Black Ships Festival returns to Bristol starting Friday, August 9, 2019, at Independence Park. Additional information on the celebration will be announced at a later date.