By Andy Tomolonis
Call it a last blast, fall fling, or one more chance to hang out with friends before the weather turns chilly and everyone starts disappearing indoors. Or just call it the Yarmouth Seaside Festival.
Whatever your title, the town’s annual Columbus Day weekend bash boasts a flurry of outdoor activities during mid-October, taking advantage of the cool days and crisp autumn evenings. It’s the perfect time for hearty foods and family fun – like a beach side bonfire, a canoe and kayak race, evening fireworks and a parade. Throw in a massive craft fair, a pie-eating contest, sand sculpting competition, non-stop music and dozens of free activities, and you get a pretty good picture of what the Yarmouth Seaside Festival (YSF) is all about.
Jan Butler, who started the party back in 1979, says her goal was to build community spirit and unite all the far-flung villages in Yarmouth. The festival continues to hit those goals as it grows in popularity every year.
We’ve compiled this “sand-bucket list” of five fun things to do in and near Yarmouth – from beach walks to bike rides to meals on railroad wheels. End your summer vacation with a few of these ideas, and the sizzling memories will keep you warm until the summer of 2020.
Events are free with a few exceptions – things like food, gifts and handmade goodies at the craft fair, and registration for the canoe race. The festival is also 100 percent family oriented, Butler said. So, get ready for a weekend that’s wallet friendly and family friendly all at once. Here are some highlights:
Arts and Crafts Fair: Get a two-month jump on your holiday shopping with artisan gifts from more than 125 juried crafters who will be displaying their jewelry, soaps, candles, watercolor paintings, and other handmade goods. The crafters will be open for business from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday at the festival fairgrounds (Joshua Sears Memorial Field, 1175 Route 28, in South Yarmouth). Check out the festival website for a list of vendors, many with links to individual websites for even more info: yarmouthseasidefestival.com/craft-fair/.
Bonfire at Bass River Beach: Dance to music from DJ Patrick or just chill and fill your belly with chowder, burgers, hotdogs, chili, onion rings, and other hearty foods – all beside the amber light of a roaring beachside bonfire. Don’t forget your blanket and beach chairs. The bonfire runs from 5-8 p.m. at Bass River Beach (Smuggler’s Beach if you’re a local).
YSF Parade: This year’s theme is American Patriotic Pride, so expect some red, white, and blue to complement the rusty hues of autumn. The march begins at noon on Sunday, Oct. 13, from the old Yarmouth Drive-in property (across from Captain Parker’s Pub). It proceeds eastward down Route 28 and winds up at the State Police barracks.
YSF Fireworks: This might be your last chance to catch a little “Sssssss … boom … ahhhhh!” before New Year’s Eve, so don’t miss the opportunity. Plus, it’s one more excuse to go to the beach. The pyrotechnics are set to begin at 8 p.m., Sunday, from Seagull Beach in West Yarmouth. Butler says the American Thunder fireworks company of North Reading has been running the show since the festival began 41 years ago, and they do a fantastic job. The display typically lasts about 20 minutes, she says, and it’s a high-energy show from start to finish. Note: The parking lot fills quickly at Seagull Beach, but the view is also great from Smuggler’s Beach, Parkers River Beach, and pretty much anywhere along the south-facing coastline, Butler says.
Sand Sculpture Contest: Like the parade, this year’s theme is American Patriotic Pride, so go with the flow. Contestants arrive at Bass River Beach (Smuggler’s Beach) and choose a spot or are assigned a site where they will create their sculptures. Winning sculptures receive awards, and everyone gets a chance to play in the sand. Remember to bring your own shovels, trowels, rakes and pails. The event gets underway at 9 a.m. Monday and ends at noon.
Canoe and Kayak Race: The paddle from Bass River Beach to Wilbur’s Point begins at 10 a.m., Monday, with registration from 9-10 a.m. Contestants must have Coast Guard-approved floatation devices to participate, and anyone under 18 needs a signed slip from parents or a guardian. Paddlers follow the incoming tide, so it’s an easy ride with a post-race party for participants and friends. Registration is $20. Find more at the festival website:
Other attractions: There are loads of other activities at the fairgrounds, including a raptor show, Jaws of Life presentation, wildlife, pumpkin decorating, science experiments, K-9 demos, kids’ crafts, all-day music, and a pie-eating contest. Check the festival website and Facebook page for more information: yarmouthseasidefestival.com/ and facebook.com/yarmouthseasidefestival/.
This Yarmouth Seaside Festival is sponsored in part by the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund, which is derived from local hotel and meals taxes. Find a list of other sponsors at the festival website.
Fall festival at Taylor-Bray Farm
Maybe you like the turf better than surf? If so, check out the agricultural activities at historic Taylor-Bray Farm. The nonprofit farm is hosting its Fall Festival on Saturday, Oct. 12, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., while the weekend long Yarmouth Seaside Festival proceeds (rain date is Oct. 13).
Activities at the farm will include hay wagon rides, old-time games, a raffle for a giant pumpkin (kids only) and a candy corn counting contest (guess how many corns are in the jar and you win the whole jar). There will also be refreshments, including hot dogs, cider and donut holes.
The 379-year-old farm is also home to miniature donkeys Nester and Sam, Dusty the Nubian goat, Chloe the highland cow, and assorted sheep and chickens. Visit with the animals, soak up some agrarian history, and support the historic farm by purchasing your Halloween pumpkins on site. Admission is free, but there’s a suggested $5 donation for parking. All proceeds and donations go toward feeding the animals, maintaining the grounds and educational programs.
Taylor-Bray Farm is located at 108 Bray Farm Road North in Yarmouth Port. Find more information about the farm and festival at the Taylor-Bray Farm website: taylorbrayfarm.org/.
This event is sponsored in part by the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.
Andy Tomolonis is a nonfiction author, travel writer and freelance journalist.