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After calling off last year’s ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Main Street in Wakefield was once again filled with the sights and sounds of the annual South Kingstown Memorial Day parade, with civilians, politicians, public safety personnel, active duty service members and veterans turning out to honor the memory of those from South Kingstown and around the country who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

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In December 2001, the 143rd Airlift Wing of the Rhode Island Air National Guard became the first wing to receive the then new C-130J-30, the stretch version of the C-130J transport plane. 

Now, almost 20 years later, the Rhode Warriors have received another first with the addition of a new, state of the art simulator designed to test and prepare pilots and load masters for any conditions, environments or errors at any airfield in the world. 

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It was important, David M. Dooley said, to leave the University of Rhode Island in a better place than when he arrived.

Looking at URI today, that made Dooley’s decision to retire as its president next month easier.

“I felt that we had a magnitude of momentum and success and newfound prominence, and I think a much better reputation, a much broader global footprint,” Dooley said. “I thought, ‘I could step down now and feel good about what the university’s done,’ … the university accomplished this, I didn’t.”

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Free of the worst of COVID-19 and with vaccinations on the rise, the University of Rhode Island is bringing back in-person graduation for 2021, with nine ceremonies spread over three days this weekend.

The timing of the commencement comes just as the state is poised to end its remaining COVID restrictions and just a week after the federal Centers for Disease Control advised that fully vaccinated people — those who have had their second shot for two or more weeks — can gather in small groups without masks.

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With some adjusting of venues and carefully planned arrangements, the four high schools in The Independent’s coverage area, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Narragansett and The Prout School, will pull off what they couldn’t last year – in-person graduation ceremonies for their seniors.

The Prout School announced that it will hold its graduation on June 8 at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, in Providence. The cathedral is the traditional graduation venue for the Catholic, co-educational high school off of Route 1 in Wakefield.

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Local building permits required for many home renovation and construction projects show significant increases this April compared to the same time in the last two years, and in spite of a pandemic that recoiled jobs and lifestyles of many people.

“Business is great. People stayed home and used their money on their home. There has been no slowdown since the pandemic started,” said Buz Gileau, manager of the West Kingston-based Arnold Lumber also with outlets in Wakefield, Bristol and Westerly.

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Christian D’Agostino, executive chef and owner of Tavern on Main in Wakefield and East Greenwich, as well as the soon-to-open Coastal Cabin on Boston Neck Road in Narragansett, said a shortage of help is seriously affecting his businesses.

“A month ago I was literally getting zero applications, now I’m getting some,” he said, but is still having trouble finding waiters, waitresses and managers.

Like other business owners, he pointed to the extra federal unemployment bonus, but also a post-pandemic environment that finds many workers left the industry due to shutdowns and no work for the last year, they said.

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Gov. Dan McKee told The Independent this week that helping the state’s small businesses — noting especially those in tourism-dependent South County — anchors his strategy to throw open the doors Memorial Day weekend on the state’s re-opening.

 Beginning May 28, South County — and the rest of the state —  will return to a “near normal,” ending over a year of many state-imposed restrictions.

 “South County is right in the middle of that. It’s going to benefit by jumping up the date from early June to Memorial Day,” the governor said during a one-on-one interview Tuesday about how he wants his policies to help revive the region’s struggling small businesses and invite residents and tourists to engage once again in activities.