By Kim Kalunian, WPRO News
The fifth annual “I Heart Providence” event will take place Tuesday night at Providence City Hall from 6 to 8 p.m.
This year the theme of party is “East Vs. West,” and will feature a “food fight” between chef’s from the East and West Sides of Providence.
The East Side team will feature Chef Nemo Bolin on Cook and Brown Public House, The Duck and Bunny’s pastry chef, Brandy Schwalbe, and Chef Paul Jalaf of Vanity. They’ll duke it out against the West Side Team, featuring Chef Mike McHugh of Julian’s, James Mark of North and Chef Jon Dille of Garden Grille and soon-to-be restaurant, The Grange.
EatDrinkRI’s David Dadaekian, Johnson and Wales Chef Branden Lewis and Gracie’s chef Matthew Varga will judge the culinary concoctions and choose a top chef and top team. Guests can also sample the chef’s creations and vote for their favorite.
In addition to the dishes prepared in the “food fight,” there will also be free food from restaurants around Providence as well as cash bars on the first and second floors of City Hall. The night will also include live entertainment by Bored with Four, and Miss Wensday and the Cotillions.
The vendors and artists participating in the I Heart Providence party all donate their goods and their time, making the event entirely free for those who attend.
The event is the brainchild of Mike Ritz. Ritz is the Executive Director of Leadership RI, but said he created and organized the event simply as a citizen who wanted to “bring some positive attention to Providence.”
Ritz has lived in Providence for roughly 10 years, and remembers fondly his first visit to the city to see a movie at the Cable Car. When he returned shortly thereafter for Waterfire, he said he fell in love.
“I couldn’t believe there was this incredible thing in the center of the city that wasn’t over commercialized,” he said. He soon realized, “This is where I want to live.”
When Ritz crafted the idea to throw a party celebrating the city, it was 2009 and social media was just beginning to take off. He challenged himself to throw a party using only social media to draw guests. The first I Heart Providence drew roughly 350 people; this year he estimates there will be 1,200 guests in attendance.
“It provides an opportunity for people who love the city, like I do, to say great things about it,” he said of the bash. “It’s nice to have a celebration, too, and actually identify what is going well and what is great about the city.”
Each year the party has a creative way in which attendees can proclaim their love for the city. The first year there was a video confessional that people could sit in and talk about Providence. Another year people could write love letters to the city. This year, there will be a graffiti wall provided by The Avenue Concept that people can “tag” with their names. Ritz isn’t sure where the wall will end up, but said there will be plenty of pictures of it and a lot of buzz surrounding about it.
“We needed something that was citizen-lead that says, 'We love the city,'” said Ritz. “We won’t take money out of the city budget and we won’t ask.”
An award-winning journalist and theater critic - and a performer at heart. Kim's talents have taken her from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in NY, to stages in Boston and Providence's own Trinity Repertory.