Pumpkin carvings bring ‘relief’ to Yarmouth residents

Just as the town’s celebrated sand sculptures are being cleared for winter, new artistic displays have popped up in Yarmouth.

Giant carved pumpkins, complete with cornstalks, bales of hay, and other autumnal adornments, are part of a test promotion this year by the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Yarmouth. There’s a continuity to the decorations, too.

The carvings were created by Sean Fitzpatrick of Fitzysnowman Studios, the same artist behind the whimsical sand sculptures that have brought delight to Yarmouth’s visitors and residents for more than a decade.

Fitzpatrick, who specializes in three-dimensional street art and carves pumpkins when he’s not working with sand, says the installations this year might be the start of something bigger.

“This is just a test run, to see if people like it,” he explained.

Three ornately carved pumpkins are featured in seasonal displays — one at the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce’s Visitor Center on Route 28 in West Yarmouth, another at Town Hall, and a third at Strawberry Lane in Yarmouth Port.

“They’re all 100-pound pumpkins, and they’re sitting on top of three bales of hay,” he said. They get a little decoration, and they are enclosed inside a temporary loop of fencing to keep them safe.

The carvings are done in relief, Fitzpatrick explained, using thin layers to create the images, as opposed to the typical jack-o-lantern with triangular eyes cut clean through the pumpkin’s hull. And the subjects? Well, they’re in line with both Cape Cod and the Halloween season, of course.

One carving depicts a ghostly pirate ship flying the Jolly Roger with a pirate at the stern. Another shows a haunted church, flanked by menacing, leafless trees and bats flying overhead, ostensibly exiting the belfry at dusk. The third is a deathly stagecoach pulled by a troika of steeds with the Grim Reaper holding reins in one hand and wielding a scythe in the other.

Fitzpatrick uses Big Max pumpkins — a variety known as much for its uniform shape and brilliant orange skin as for its hefty size. “They’re beautiful, smooth-skinned pumpkins, and so they really do create a nice contrast,” he said.

“The very first thing I have to do is make the design,” he explained. “So, I’ll do some sketches, look at some reference photos, and I’ll draw something up.”

Not all sketches translate into a relief carving on a spherical pumpkin, so Fitzpatrick avoids “super-thin draw lines.” When he’s settled on the design, the artist uses wood-carving tools and Thai fruit-carving knives, which are superb for intricate work, he said.

Like sand sculptures, pumpkin carvings are ephemeral, so they should be enjoyed before they disappear — hopefully after Halloween if the weather isn’t too warm.

“We’d like to get as many people out there to see them as possible,” Fitzpatrick said. Pumpkins “are living organisms … and we’ve cut off their life support.”

When the displays are ultimately taken down, Fitzpatrick hopes the carvings will return in greater numbers next October, and that depends on whether people get out this year to enjoy the artwork. It’s a great ice-breaker and a surefire way to melt away the stress, he says.

“When you’re driving down the street, you do a double-take, and say, ‘What was that sculpture?’ And there’s this big pumpkin,” he said. “And now you’re smiling, and everything else that was bugging you — you don’t even remember it.”

If it changes one person’s day, “then my job is done,” Fitzpatrick said.

It’s “just something nice to put smiles on people’s faces,” he noted. “I mean we need that more than anything.”

TONS AND TONS AND TONS OF PUMPKINS

Those who want to test their own carving skills can find the appropriate raw materials at the West Yarmouth Congregational Church, which is midway through its 17th season of hosting the Pumpkin Patch fundraiser.

Rev. Charles Soule says the church receives two shipments during the fall, each containing about 30,000 pounds of pumpkins. Unloading and stacking them around the church’s lawn is performed by volunteers, who also work in shifts at the Pumpkin Patch, helping customers select the perfect gourds or pumpkins. Prices vary by size, with the smallest selling for $1 and the largest going for up to $35 or $40. Rev. Soule says most customers can take home a nice, big carving pumpkin for about $10.

The Pumpkin Patch is open until the end of October, Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to dusk and on Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to dusk. The church is also selling fresh and frozen apple pies, along with other baked goods, on Oct. 30. Find more at the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce website.

This pumpkin carving initiative is funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer, and freelance multimedia journalist.

Fall Festivals in Yarmouth

Forget the foliage in New Hampshire. Cape Cod has it all in the fall — especially in Yarmouth this weekend.

Where else can you find fireworks, a beachside bonfire, kayak and canoe racing, sand sculptures, a craft fair, painted pumpkins, hay wagon rides, apple cider donut holes, free live music, friendly farm animals, a pie-eating contest, kids activities, and every autumnal attraction under the mid-October sun?

The answer, of course, is nowhere but Yarmouth, where there are two festivals jammed into one spectacular weekend. Let’s start with the biggie.

2021 YARMOUTH SEASIDE FESTIVAL

The tradition began in 1978 when Jimmy Carter was president and cover bands played Bee Gees music at the Mill Hill Club. Yarmouth Seaside Festival founder Jan Butler says her goal was to create an event that would unite all the town’s villages and help build community spirit. It must have worked because the festival has been a tradition for more than 40 years — that is until 2020 when COVID-19 forced organizers to cancel the event.

Now it’s back, with all your favorite family-friendly activities except for the annual parade, which was omitted in deference to last month’s Cape Cod St. Patrick’s Parade. Here’s what to expect at the fairgrounds and around town.

Arts and Crafts Fair: It’s never too early to start your Christmas shopping — especially when you can choose from more than 125 juried crafters selling jewelry, ceramics, candles, soaps, paintings, and other handmade goods. The crafters will be at the festival fairgrounds (Joshua Sears Memorial Field, 1175 Route 28 in South Yarmouth) on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Find more info online.

Bonfire at Smuggler’s Beach: Bring a beach chair, blankets, your best friends, and a hearty appetite to Bass River Beach, (aka Smuggler’s Beach) on Saturday evening. In addition to the roaring bonfire, DJ Patrick Treacy of Sound Cape Mobile Entertainment will provide music for dancing in the sand. Meanwhile, Dennis Public Market’s “Meat Commander” will serve up hearty chili, Captain Parker’s famous chowder, hotdogs, hamburgers, and other foods. Find more information online.

Scenic 5K race along Bass River: The annual Seaside Festival Road Race is a flat and scenic course that winds 3.1 miles through streets with beautiful homes and views of Bass River. The starting line is at the festival fairgrounds, with parking behind Bridgewater State University. The event begins at 9 a.m., Sunday, with registration at 8 a.m. Find more information at the race’s web page.

Fireworks on the beach: The Nantucket “Sound” will be some very loud booming (plus some oohs and ahs) on Sunday night, with a dazzling fireworks display at Seagull Beach in West Yarmouth. Bring a beach chair and park at Seagull Beach lot. If that’s filled, don’t worry, the view is also great from Smuggler’s Beach, Parkers River Beach, and pretty much anywhere along the south-facing coastline. The pyrotechnics display is scheduled for 8 p.m.

Sand Sculpture Contest: Test your creativity and construction skills with the fine, white sand at Bass River Beach on Monday from 9 a.m. to noon. Contestants will need their own shovels, trowels, rakes, and pails. This year’s theme is sea creatures, and there will be awards for the best creations. Who knows … you might be the next Fitzysnowman!

YSF Canoe and Kayak Race: Paddle from Wilbur Park with the outgoing tide to Smuggler’s Beach, then enjoy food and prizes at the Sea Dog Brew Pub. Registration is on Monday from 9-10 a.m., with the shotgun start at 10. Paddlers are required to wear Coast Guard-approved floatation devices, and anyone under 18 needs a signed slip from parents or a guardian. Find more info and download an application form online.

More fun at the fair: Decorate pumpkins, enter a pie-eating contest, and watch police K-9 demos. Or catch mad science experiments, birds of prey shows, animal adventures, and Rock & Roll Racers at the fairgrounds on Saturday and Sunday. Find a full schedule of events at the Yarmouth Seaside Festival website.

The Yarmouth Seaside Festival is sponsored in part by the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund. Find a list of other sponsors on the festival website.

FALL FESTIVAL AT TAYLOR-BRAY FARM

Amid the autumnal activities, another popular fair is happening in historic Yarmouth Port, where the 377-year-old Taylor-Bray Farm hosts its annual Fall Festival. The event is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a rain date of Sunday. Enjoy hay wagon rides, old-fashioned games, an archaeological display, and a free giant pumpkin raffle for kids.

Animal lovers can visit the farm’s friendly livestock, including Nester and Sam, the miniature donkeys; a highland cow named Chloe; and three Nubian goats, Henry, George, and Dusty. If you get hungry, grab some hotdogs, apple cider, and cider donut holes.

You can also use the opportunity to buy your holiday pumpkin, grown right on the farm. Admission to the fair is free, but a donation of $5 for parking is greatly appreciated. Proceeds go toward maintaining the buildings and grounds, as well as feeding and caring for the nonprofit farm’s animals. As far as your own animals, please leave your dog at home on the day of the festival.

Learn more about the festival by visiting the Taylor-Bray Farm website.

The Taylor Bray Farm Festival is sponsored in part by the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer, and freelance multimedia journalist.

September’s St. Patrick’s Parade to honor frontline workers

In a year marked by rising and falling cycles of COVID-19, it seems fitting to honor the people who have pressed on through hardships — heading to work each day throughout the pandemic, providing essential services for others, and helping to keep the economy chugging along.

That’s why organizers of this weekend’s Cape Cod St. Patrick’s Parade chose to honor all the region’s frontline workers instead of selecting a single grand marshal.

The parade, which is set to step off at 11 a.m. Saturday, was moved to September after the March event was canceled due to concerns about COVID-19. But with more people getting vaccinated across Massachusetts and the state lifting restrictions on public gatherings in May, the event was rescheduled.

So, on Saturday, when spectators gather along Route 28, they’ll get a chance to thank the frontline workers who have played such a critical role in all our lives.

It’s not just the police, fire, and EMS first-responders said Parade Committee Chairman Desmond Keogh. It’s grocery workers, UPS, FedEx, and U.S. Postal Service employees. It’s the tradespeople who worked on your cars and fixed things in your house; employees who cleaned the floors and cooked meals in nursing homes and hospitals; those who delivered food and groceries; and all the essential workers who went to their jobs every day and kept the economy going through the ups-and-downs of COVID-19.

“These people were putting themselves in danger, above and beyond what their job description was,” Keogh explained. “They faced their work every day, dealing with the unknown aspects of COVID. And that’s what our goal is — to honor all of them.”

Amid the traditional pipe bands, color guard units, and civic groups, Saturday’s parade will include nurses, grocery store workers, and other essential employees. Think Shaw’s and Star Market, Stop & Shop, The Mass. Nurses Association, Cape Cod Healthcare, the Yarmouth Senior Services, and more.

“This is huge,” Keogh said. “You’re going to have the workers walking, and the families will see them walking, and so you’ll have a lot of stopping and waving at each other as people say thank you to this year’s honorees.” He said the myriad groups might slow down the pace a bit, but he still expects the parade to wrap up in less than two hours.

A SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER

September was the right month for rescheduling the popular event because it wasn’t in the middle of summer, said Parade Committee Chairman Desmond Keogh. “It was just a good time to support Cape Cod businesses and Yarmouth businesses in particular.”

Organizers ruled out Labor Day weekend, then decided against Sept. 11 because that was a day for reflecting on lives lost to the terrorist attacks 20 years ago. Planners settled on Sept. 18, and by coincidence, that weekend actually marks the mid-point in the year between last St. Patrick’s Day and the next one.

The parade committee also decided this year was a good time to reward those who have supported the event for the past 15 years, allowing floats that advertise local businesses to participate for free. Keogh said the response from businesses and the community has been strong, and people are looking forward to a chance to cheer and feel normal again.

PIPE BANDS, BEWSTER WHITECAPS, MOTORCYCLES AND MORE

Beyond the essential workers, there will be bands, motorcycles, dog handlers, Scouts, athletic teams, civic groups, and marching units. All told, organizers have registered more than 60 groups to march in the parade, and there are a few surprise additions coming in at the last minute, Keogh said.

Highlights include Clydesdales, stilt-walkers, and three pipe bands — the Irish American Police Officers Association Pipes and Drums, the Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes and Drums, and the Highland Light Scottish Pipe Band. The Brewster Whitecaps will be present, along with their Cape Cod League 2021 championship trophy; the Mass. State Police Mounted Unit will be riding on horseback; Big Nick’s Riders for the Fallen will be on motorcycles and Jeeps decorated with American flags. Other marchers include multiple police color guard units, the Yarmouth Minutemen, Pirates of Cape Cod, Cape Cod Marine Corps League, and WROL radio in Boston, which will broadcast live from a truck along the parade route. Even Freeman Johnson, the 101-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor who marched in the 2020 parade, said he wants to return and walk at least part of the route, Keogh noted.

“I said you’re absolutely welcome.”

Last year’s parade drew an estimated 65,000 to 75,000 people, but Keogh said he’s hesitant to predict the turnout this weekend. Attendance could be anywhere from 20,000 to more than 50,000 he said, depending on the weather. As of Wednesday, the forecast was looking good — a mix of sun and clouds, with temperatures in the 70s.

Whatever the turnout, next year’s parade will return to its normal season in early March. Keogh said organizers are already planning the 2022 event while working out the final details for Saturday. Find out more at the Cape Cod St. Patrick’s Parade website.

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IF YOU GO

What: Cape Cod St. Patrick’s Parade.
When:
Saturday, Sept. 18, at 11 a.m.
Where: The parade route starts near Skull Island at the intersection of Route 28 and Long Pond Drive in South Yarmouth, and heads west along Route 28 to Higgins Crowell Road in West Yarmouth.
Safety: Masks are not required as the parade is outdoors, but spectators can choose whether to wear them when gathering along the route.
Timing:
Marching units may be spaced a little farther apart, so the parade might take a few minutes longer to finish. Still, the 2-mile walk should take less than two hours and be over before 1 p.m.
Note:
Some media have reported the parade begins at 8 a.m., but that’s just when the staging area opens for marchers at Skull Island. The actual parade steps off at 11 a.m.
More info online:
www.capecodstpatricksparade.com.

= = =

Sponsored in Part by the Town of Yarmouth Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer, and freelance multimedia journalist.

Photo credit: Teplansky Photography (photos #2, 3, and 4)

Still time for fun in the sun before summer fades away

Wait, was that really Labor Day weekend fading away in my rear-view mirror?

Sadly, yes. And while September begins the inexorable march toward winter, summer won’t truly be gone until 3:20 p.m. on Sept. 22.

That leaves another two weeks to binge on fun things to do before we all start wearing sweaters and counting the days until Memorial Day of 2022. Let’s get started with eight great adventures.

Skedaddle and paddle: Get out of the house and explore Yarmouth’s beautiful inlets, rivers, and open waterways in a quiet, easy-to-maneuver kayak. Yarmouth has some terrific places for kayaking, from sheltered wooded ponds to the open waters on Nantucket Sound and Cape Cod Bay. The water temperature is still warm through September, so kayaking is actually safer than it is during May and early June. And boat landings aren’t as busy after Labor Day. Find out more about kayaking safety and some of the great options available in Yarmouth in one of our earlier blogposts about kayaking.

Nantucket day trip: When was the last time you visited Nantucket? The post-Labor Day season is considered prime time for exploring the island, which is quieter and less crowded in September, but still boasts all the beauty of summer. The Steamship Authority’s fast ferry M/V Iyanough can make the 26-mile trip from Hyannis to Nantucket in one hour, leaving lots of time for walking the cobblestone streets and browsing through shops. Check the ferry schedule, rates and more information on the Steamship Authority website.

Reel in a whopper: Fishing Cape Cod’s waters during late summer and early fall are as good as it gets, with striped bass and bluefish blitzing at any time, and bottom-dwellers like tautog and scup fattening up before moving to warmer waters. It’s also time to chase the thrill of hooking into an albie or bonito. Albies (short for false albacores) are prized for their fighting ability, hitting hard and taking long, line-stripping runs. They’re not a prize for the dinner table, though, with oily, unappetizing meat. A better bet for the grill would be a bonito if you’re lucky enough to catch one. Find out more about albies, bonito, bass, and blues – which tackle to use, where they’re biting, and which lures or baits are most successful – at Riverview Bait and Tackle in South Yarmouth. Find out more about Yarmouth’s artificial fishing reef and its piers and public landings in a recent blogpost on fall fishing destinations. And if you’re interested in a deep-sea excursion to haul in some pelagic monsters, you’ll find options with the Helen H out of Hyannis. Choose from in-shore areas, two-day tuna trips, or cod and haddock adventures on Georges Bank.

Get down on the farm: Check out Henry, George, and Dusty, (three friendly Nubian goats), along with Chloe the Scottish Highland cow, Jasper the Rooster, the donkeys, Navajo Churro sheep, plus chickens and bees at the bucolic Taylor-Bray Farm in Yarmouth Port. The nonprofit farm is a historical treasure, first settled in 1639. The property is now owned by the Town of Yarmouth, and it’s maintained by an association. The farm is open to visitors from dawn to dusk (year-round). In addition to the animals, there are picnic tables and short walking trails offering views of Black Flats Marsh. Check out the Taylor-Bray Farm website for more information.

Stand-up for fun: If you’ve never tried it, make now the time to SUP. What’s SUP? It’s stand-up paddleboarding, which is a great way to explore the calm inlets and waterways around town. Board rentals are available at Bass River Kayaks and Paddle Boards, 118 Main St., West Dennis, with changing rooms and access to Bass River (near Sundancer’s Restaurant). Rates range from $27 for 90 minutes to $62 for the whole day. The best bargain might be $37 for four hours – long enough to get the hang of it and still have time to explore the beauty of Bass River. The shop is open through Sept. 12, and then for the weekend of Sept. 17-19. Find more information about renting kayaks and paddleboards, along with instructional videos and advice for first-timers, at the shop’s website: capecodkayaking.com.

Bike the Rail Trail: Pedaling the Cape Cod Rail Trail is an easy way to get back into the thrill of human-powered two-wheeling. The course is flat, motor traffic is limited to the well-marked crossings and the bike trail was recently expanded to Homer Park in Yarmouth. If you need a bicycle, no problem. Bike Zone in Yarmouth, conveniently located right off the bike path at 484 Station Ave., in South Yarmouth, offers road bikes, mountain bikes, and hybrids. All rentals include a helmet, lock, and tips on local riding spots. Yes, the rail trail is beautiful, but there are plenty of other biking options around the Cape. And if you fall in love with riding, you can put the cost of your rental toward the purchase price of your very own bicycle.

Dig and dine: There’s nothing better than holding a clam bake (or clam boil) with shellfish that you just plucked from the wild. And gathering fresh quahogs is a Sunday tradition in Yarmouth. All you need is a shellfish permit, a swimsuit, and a pair of water socks or old tennis shoes. Just wade out to your waist at low tide and feel for the quahogs with your feet, then dip down to pull them up with your hands. (Wear a pair of lightweight gloves if you’re skittish about crabs.) For greater efficiency, invest in a quahog rake, which has long tines that pull the shellfish out of the mud, and a basket behind the tines to catch the mollusks. Find out more about gathering your own quahogs, soft-shell clams (steamers), scallops, and oysters on the Yarmouth Department of Natural Resources website.

Take a hike: Follow any of Yarmouth’s easy walking trails through marshlands, woods, near ponds, and old cranberry bogs. Or just gather your thoughts with one of those “long walks along the beach.” After Labor Day, you can walk your dogs on public beaches, too — as long as you keep them leashed and pick up their messes. Find maps and more information about hiking trails in Yarmouth at the Department of Natural Resources website.

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer and freelance multimedia journalist.

Exotic adventures await mini-golf fans in Yarmouth

The Taylor brothers would be proud.

New York mini golf developers Joseph and Robert Taylor are credited with the zany idea of placing windmills, wishing wells, and other elaborate obstacles into their courses. Who knew the trend they started in 1938 would evolve to such extremes?

Thanks to the brothers’ Taylor, today’s mini golf courses are one part Pebble Beach and nine parts Disney – with creative obstacles that not only make it more challenging to sink the ball in the cup but also draw families with children who revel in the theme-park settings.

It’s enough to make you smile at muffing a 2-foot “gimme.”

Yarmouth residents and visitors are lucky enough to have four flamboyant mini golf courses in town, each with its own assortment of ostentatious obstacles – from life-sized jungle animals to a half-sunken pirate’s galleon to Captain Ahab and the elusive white whale. But the icing on the kitschy cake has got to be the giant steam-spewing skull with light-up eye sockets just a couple miles west of the Bass River Bridge.

SKULL ISLAND AT BASS RIVER SPORTS WORLD

Skull Island Adventure Golf wasn’t always a maze of waterfalls, mountains, and palm trees.

When owner Lou Nickinello and his father Tony opened 60 years ago in 1961, it was essentially a flat course with traditional sculptures. The holes were challenging, Nickinello said, but it wasn’t nearly the attraction that it is today.

Nickinello hired Castle Golf and spent two years renovating and expanding the old facility to create an elaborate Swiss Family Robinson-themed minigolf adventure park – complete with 18 challenging holes.

Today Skull Island is a 38,000 square-foot-marvel, with 20 waterfalls, 25 fountains, a haunted treasure cave, and a towering treehouse. Nearly a quarter-acre of the course’s surface area is covered in water.

Every hole has a water obstacle, and all 18 holes are challenging. But the hardest hole might be No. 3, which runs uphill, Nickinello said. If you don’t hit it just right, the ball comes rolling back down.

When the redesigned Skull Island first opened, not everyone was a fan of the giant namesake statue, Nickinello said. But today, the skull is a Route 28 landmark. It’s a familiar meeting place and a setting for parties, functions, and charity events. It hosted this summer’s Yarmouth Pirate Festival and it marks the starting area for the town’s world-famous St. Patrick’s Parade. Wedding parties pull up in their limos so people can get out and take pictures with the iconic skull, Nickinello said.

If you want more than a 90-minute round of minigolf, Skull Island Sports World is ready to accommodate. The sprawling complex at 934 Main St. (Route 28) in South Yarmouth also features a driving range, batting cages, a go-kart track, and an indoor arcade. That means you can practice your long game or your short game, while the kids ride go-karts or play in the arcade.

Skull Island’s season runs from April 1 through the end of September. Find more information on prices, birthday parties, special events, and hours by calling 508-398-6070 or visiting skullislandcapecod.com.

WILD ANIMAL LAGOON

Can’t make it to the zoo this summer? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered – with 18 holes of challenging mini golf to boot.

Wild Animal Lagoon, 62 Main Street (Route 28), West Yarmouth, offers the chance to putt your way past elephants, a mountain gorilla, a white-horned rhinoceros, and other exotic beasts – all while listening to the roar of cascading waterfalls.

The course features bank shots and boulders to make the putting more interesting, along with watering holes where jungle-themed statues hang out. Think of a bellowing hippopotamus and sunbathing crocodile. By the way, have you ever tried to sink a putt while standing next to a giraffe and fighting the shadow of a crashed airplane? Here’s your chance.

Call 508-790-1662 or visit https://www.wildanimallagoon.com/ for prices, a coupon, and more information.

PUTTER’S PARADISE MINI-GOLF

Maybe you’re a Cape Cod traditionalist, who prefers lighthouses, sea captains, and spouting whales for mini golf statuaries. If so, head straight to Putter’s Paradise, 119, Main St. (Route 28) in West Yarmouth.

The 18-hole course features concrete statues of a stern-looking Captain Ahab holding a harpoon in search of the elusive white whale – which just happens to be spouting water in the nearby lagoon. There’s also a concrete lighthouse, lobsterman, and squirming pink octopus clutching a putter, all created by local artist T.J. Neil.

After your round of minigolf, you can pick up an ice cream cone, smoothie, frozen yogurt, or sundae made with Gifford’s ice cream from Skowhegan, Maine. And what could be cooler than that?

Call 508-771-7394 or visit puttersparadise.net for more information.

PIRATE’S COVE ADVENTURE GOLF

You’ll find more cascading waterfalls – along with caves, skulls (albeit considerably smaller than the big one at Skull Island), and a model pirate ship – at Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf, 728 Main St., (Route 28) in South Yarmouth. Pirate’s Cove is one of more than two dozen pirate-themed minigolf courses in a chain that stretches from Florida to New Hampshire and Arkansas to South Dakota.

The Yarmouth Pirate’s Cove features two 18-hole courses – the Captain’s Course and Blackbeard’s Course, which is handicap accessible. (There’s also a special rate for those who want to play all 36 holes.)

Pirate’s Cove is usually open into October, but this year the attraction will close Sept. 12 for renovations before opening again in the spring of 2022, according to the company’s website.

Call 508-394-6200 or visit piratescove.net/locations/massachusetts/south-yarmouth/ for more information.

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer and freelance multimedia journalist.

Fresh produce and homemade goods at the Bass River Farmer’s Market

What’s the hottest spot in town for gourmet seafood, healthy vegetables, and fresh-baked artisan breads?

It’s the Bass River Farmer’s Market. And yes, it’s more than just a place to grab a few ears of sweet corn for dinner — although that’s never a bad idea.

The market now hosts 22 vendors on Thursday and Saturday mornings, peddling just-picked produce, fresh-caught seafood, gourmet pastries, olive oils, pickles, jams, relishes, scented candles, pet treats, jewelry and too many hand-crafted goods to list in a single blog post.

The Bass River Farmers Market has is a great spot to browse for handmade gifts or to pick up fresh, locally produced foods

Longtime market manager Carlene Veara says the myriad crafters make the market ideal for visitors to hunt for that perfect Cape Cod gift. But, she said, the biggest attractions are still the food vendors.

Lane Gardens of Dighton and Oakdale Farms of Rehoboth truck in their fresh-picked seasonal vegetables. Fireking Baking Co. of Braintree draws early birds looking for the first choice of artisan breads. And fresh seafood vendor Denice Lapierre brings succulent sea scallops caught on her partner Chris Merl’s day boat, the Isabel and Lilee.

The seafood has piqued interest and made the Bass River Farmers Market a locavore’s destination — where finnicky foodies can gather locally sourced ingredients to create the perfect gourmet meal.

Lapierre’s specialty is day boat sea scallops, harvested on short trips and brought to shore in small loads. Day boat scallops also called “dry scallops” aren’t treated with additives that preserve the seafood and help the meat retain water. Because they have less water content, the scallops don’t ooze liquid when they sizzle in a frying pan. And that means they can be sauteed to perfection — delivering the crisp, caramelized coating that food-lovers expect from local scallops.

Denice Lapierre’s specialty is fresh “dry scallops” from her partner Chris Merl’s boat, the fishing vessel Isabel and Lilee, named after their two daughters.

She sells her dayboat sea scallops for $18 a pound — a consistent price that ranges slightly below the going rate at most seafood markets. (For comparison, the Fishermen’s Market, a popular seafood outlet on New Bedford’s busy waterfront, was selling day scallops for $19.99 a pound last week.)

In addition to the fresh sea scallops, Lapierre sells haddock and other finfish, depending on what’s available from her supplier, Red’s Best. Sometimes she has black sea bass, sometimes striped bass or even the largely undiscovered treat of local skate wings. All of the fish she sells are wild-caught, except for the salmon, which Lapierre said is farmed in Maine and was added to her inventory after repeated customer requests.

Lane Gardens owner Laura Smith says the presence of Lapierre’s seafood has boosted overall turnout at the market, which makes everyone happy.

Smith brings fresh-picked vegetables, berries, fruits and herbs to the Bass River market, with specific items varying by the season. During the mid-August bonanza, her wares include just about everything that can be grown in New England — sweetcorn, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, scallions, tomatoes, beets, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, salad fixings, and summer squashes, along with basil and other herbs. Lane Gardens also has layer hens for farm-fresh eggs, which she said sell out quickly at the market. The farm also has a certified kitchen for pickles and other processed farm foods. If you don’t see what you want, just ask, and Smith will bring it next time, she said.

Laura Smith of Lane Gardens in Dighton sells fresh vegetables, berries, fruits and eggs at the Bass River Farmers Market in South Yarmouth.

Smith also accepts SNAP benefits and is registered with HIP, the state’s Healthy Incentives Program, which offers instant rebates to customers who use their EBT cards to purchase healthy, farm-fresh goods. If a customer has $100 on an Electronic Benefits Transfer card and buys $30 worth of vegetables, Smith accepts payment and immediately refunds the full amount to the customer’s EBT card via HIP. So, in effect, the customer is getting high-quality, fresh local food for free.

The popular program helps low-income families eat healthier while supporting local farmers — which is always a worthy endeavor.

“Eating locally grown food lets us support our farmers and helps to grow our local economy in Southeastern Massachusetts, the Cape and the Islands,” said Karen Schwalbe, executive director of the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership.

Strong demand at our local markets has allowed farmer’s markets to diversify their products to include locally caught fish and shellfish, along with value-added products like salts and seasonings, jams and jellies, and baked goods, she said.

If want to support local food producers by shopping at Bass River Farmers Market, here are some things to know:

  • The market is located at 311 Old Main St. in South Yarmouth, and it’s open on Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., rain or shine. (Look for the signs placed around town by Veara, who rises with the roosters to let everyone know it’s market day.)
  • The season begins in mid-June and ends this year on Sept. 11.
  • Parking is available at the market or nearby lots.

Photo credit: All photos by Lilee Merl

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer and freelance multimedia journalist.

Artists mark 10 years of sand sculpting, with more to come

We’ve witnessed starfish and sailing ships, motorcycles and mermaids, cartoon characters and even a country western singer – all in the name of ephemeral artwork carved from mountains of sand. The specialists at Fitzysnowman Studios – aka Sean Fitzpatrick and his wife, Tracey – have stacked, packed and carved thousands of tons of sand during the past 10 years, while crafting hundreds of whimsical creations for Yarmouth’s iconic Sand Sculpture Trail.

As the artists embark on the trail’s 11th season, they’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the public arts project that has become such a cherished summertime spectacle.

The 2021 trail includes a giant octopus at the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center on Route 28; a replica of Gammon Lighthouse at Strawberry Lane; and a lobster sitting in an Adirondack chair, eating a tub full of clams while drinking a martini. Ever cognizant of not spoiling a surprise, the artists didn’t want to reveal much more about this year’s creations, other than to say one of the sculptures will feature Grogu, the Baby Yoda character from Disney’s “The Mandalorian.”

A RACE TO THE FINISH

Sean Fitzpatrick begins the six-week process of building some 30 multi-ton sand sculptures every May, finishing in late June and ensuring that the completed Yarmouth Sand Sculpture Trail is ready for viewing before July, when Cape Cod’s tourism season kicks into high gear.

The ideas are hatched during conversations with the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce and participating business owners, who co-sponsor the trail. After planning and sketching, the hard work begins – one sculpture at a time.

First, the sand is trucked to one of the sites and dumped in a pile, Fitzpatrick said. Then the artists begin shoveling it into flat forms to create the sculpture’s base – watering the sand and packing it down every few inches to ensure that all the air pockets are eliminated.

“It really is physics,” Fitzpatrick said. The artists use sharp sand, which packs down tighter than the stuff you find on the beach. When you look at beach sand under a microscope, you’ll see bits of shells, organic material, and granules that have been rounded by erosion from wind and waves, Fitzpatrick said. But the sand used in Fitzysnowman sculptures has “crisp, beautiful edges that stack and pack together,” the artist explained.

Once compacted, the sand is surprisingly strong, and allows for greater detail when carving, he said. The finished sculpture is then sprayed with a coating of water and Elmer’s glue, which seals out the rain and helps it to last all summer long. Two years ago, the sculptures stood up to midsummer tornadoes that packed 110mph winds.

The Yarmouth Sand Sculpture Trail’s largest pieces take multiple days to create, Fitzpatrick said. The biggest one, located at the Route 28 Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center, uses roughly 15 tons of sand. It takes a single day to shovel the sand and compact it, followed by three days of carving. Two other large sculptures – located at Strawberry Lane in Yarmouth Port and at the Route 6 Visitor Center – use roughly 5 tons of sand each and take two days to create – a half-day for packing and a day-and-a-half for carving. Other sculptures at local businesses are finished in a single day. They each use roughly 3 tons of sand, which takes two or three hours to shovel and pack, leaving about 6 hours for carving, Fitzpatrick said.

Once the process begins, the artists work six days per week to meet their June deadline. There are a few extra days built into the schedule to compensate for stormy weather, Fitzpatrick said.

SPECTATORS MAKE SCULPTING A JOY

Last year’s trail was reduced in scope due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, featuring just 17 sculptures. This year, 32 sculptures will be returning. Fans are coming back, too.

“It’s awesome,” Fitzpatrick said. “There’s nothing better about this job than the people I get to meet when they come by and say thank you,” he said. “That is just the best.”

Fitzysnowman Studios, located in Saugus, also creates snow and ice sculptures, 3D murals, and elaborate pumpkin carvings.

Each year, the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce runs a photo contest in conjunction with the Sand Sculpture Trail, awarding prizes to those who contribute the best photos. Find entry instructions and additional info on the YCC website.

The Yarmouth Chamber also provides a map of the Sand Sculpture Trail which is printed and distributed to YCC Visitor Centers and is available on the website in mid-June. The trail is partially funded by the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer and freelance multimedia journalist.

Y-D Red Sox and Cape Cod League returning to action

After the pandemic forced Cape Codders to endure a summer without their favorite baseball games last year, the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox are ready to play ball in 2021.

Earlier this month, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that the state is lifting all remaining COVID-19 restrictions as of May 29. Also, the state of emergency in Massachusetts will end on June 15, Baker said – five days before the start of the 2021 Cape Cod Baseball League season.

COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations are all tracking downward, and Massachusetts is on schedule to meet its goal of 4 million people fully vaccinated by June 1, Baker said. So, with businesses preparing to open at full capacity across Cape Cod, many are eager to get outside and have some old-fashioned fun. It’s also clear that absence has made the baseball heart grow fonder.

There’s a great deal of enthusiasm about the return of Cape Cod League Baseball this year, said Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox President James P. DeMaria. “The pent-up excitement is absolutely palpable. It’s fantastic.”

The league begins its 40-game schedule at 5 p.m. on Father’s Day, June 20. That’s when the Brewster Whitecaps visit Red Wilson Field in South Yarmouth to take on the Y-D Red Sox. (Find a complete Cape League schedule online.)

If the crack of the bat and smell of new-mown grass – along with the occasional waft of grilling hot dogs – doesn’t get you primed, the price of admission should do the trick. All Cape Cod Baseball League games are free. Parking is free. Concessions are affordable. And the spectator experience is incomparable, DeMaria said.

“When people come to visit the Cape, and they’re looking for things to do, and they’re looking for things that are family friendly, and they’re looking for things that are within their budget, and they’re looking for things that their kids will enjoy, and they’re looking for things that are outdoors – we’re all of those things.”

People can bring their families, he said. They can enjoy a wonderful evening outdoors and see future major league stars playing a fantastic brand of baseball in an environment that is “a slice of Americana,” DeMaria said. “It’s a great experience, and it’s quintessential Cape Cod.”

FUTURE MAJOR LEAGUE ALL-STARS

Most fans know that watching any Cape League game offers the chance to see future major-leaguers, including all stars and World Series champions. The Y-D Red Sox are no exception, DeMaria said. He noted that many Y-D players have gone from rounding the bases at Red Wilson Field to thrilling the fans at Fenway Park and other big-league venues. You want names?

For starters, there’s Chris Sale. The Red Sox ace played in Yarmouth during the summer of 2009 then helped the Red Sox win the 2018 World Series – even striking out Dodgers’ slugger Manny Machado for the final out. All told, there were 14 former Cape Cod League players in the World Series that year.

Last year’s Major League Championship series featured more Y-D alums.

“We had four players in the World Series last year – three Dodgers and one for the Tampa Bay Rays,” DeMaria said. The Cape Cod League alumni wearing Dodger Blue in 2020 were Justin Turner, Walker Buehler and Chris Taylor. Tampa Bay catcher Mike Zunino is also a former Y-D Red Sox player.

There’s more: Cleveland Indians pitcher Shane Bieber, winner of last year’s American League Cy Young Award, played with the Y-D Red Sox in 2015. When you count the players on all 10 Cape Cod League Baseball teams, there are annually 300 active alumni playing in the major leagues and more than 1,250 players all time, according to CCBL statistics. One in every six Major League Baseball players has spent time in the Cape League.

SUPPORTING THE TEAM

While all Cape Cod Baseball League games are free, donations are appreciated. Supporting the concession stands and souvenir shops is helpful, too. DeMaria said the hope is that people come to the games and spend a few hours, grab something to eat, buy a T-shirt or hat, and enjoy themselves.

With most games starting at 5 or 6 p.m., dinner at the ballpark is a convenient and inexpensive option. A hot dog is $3; a cheeseburger is $4; and it’s $7 for a sausage, pepper and onion roll. You can also try Capt. Parker’s award-winning chowder for $6 ($8 if it’s served in a bread bowl). And a Moose Tracks ice cream cone is just $3.

All home games are played at Merrill “Red” Wilson Field behind D-Y Regional High School, 210 Station Ave., South Yarmouth. There’s free parking at the high school, and the field has a capacity of 5,500. Bleachers along the first-base and third-base lines, allow a great view of the game, and there’s plenty of open space for those who want to bring lawn chairs to sit on the grass. But keep your eyes fixed on the action and watch out for foul balls – these are future big-league batters with a lot of power in their swings.

The D-Y High School field and all the fan accommodations are in excellent condition, DeMaria said. He says the team will follow any safety precautions recommended by local public health officials.

While the state is lifting its remaining COVID-19 restrictions on May 29, protective face masks will still be required on public transportation, inside health facilities, in public schools, and in buildings where vulnerable populations live. Also, those who have not been vaccinated are advised to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

LESSONS FROM FUTURE STARS

Beyond the games, there’s coaching. Youngsters who want to sharpen their skills at hitting, fielding and throwing can take a clinic under the direction of Y-D Red Sox manager Scott Pickler, with help from staff and players. Clinics are available for boys and girls 5 years and older, with a focus on individual skills, along with sportsmanship, citizenship and character. The clinics run Monday through Friday mornings and cost $90 a week – which includes a T-shirt.

OPEN YOUR HOME TO A CCBL PLAYER

Yarmouth residents who want to get more involved with the team can host a player for the summer. Like other Cape Cod Baseball League teams, the Y-D Red Sox rely on local families to provide room and board for players who stay with one family for the entire season. Ballplayers are expected to toe the line to family rules and provide their own transportation. “We’re always looking for host families,” DeMaria said, noting that those sign up for the program this year, might become host families during the summer of 2022. Find out more at the Y-D Red Sox website.

The Y-D Red Sox also use volunteers to help with fundraising and community activities, help at home games and provide other team services. If you’re interested in learning more, email DeMaria at jdemaria@ydredsox.com.

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer and freelance multimedia journalist.

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Ferry service moving closer to full steam ahead in 2021

After a devastating pandemic that resulted in the lowest ridership in 13 years, the Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority is banking on a strong rebound this summer, with a return to normal business by fall.

There’s a pent-up demand for travel, said Steamship Authority Marketing Director Kimberlee McHugh, who added that the fervor was evident on Jan. 12 – the first day of online bookings for the 2021 season. “People were flocking to the website to book summer reservations to the islands,” she said.

For trips between Hyannis and Nantucket, the Authority processed 5,151 transactions during the first day of advance internet sales this year, representing $2.8 million in revenue. That’s 434 more trips than customers had booked during the first day of internet sales in January of 2020 – at a time when most people were still unaware of COVID-19.

“Things are looking up,” she said. “We’re obviously not where we were in 2019, but we are definitely on an upswing. And our thought is that by the fall, we are optimistic that we will be back to normal ridership levels.”

McHugh cautions that the Steamship Authority still has pandemic-related restrictions in place, but some of them are likely to be lifted as the state eases limitations on businesses and social gatherings. Gov. Charlie Baker announced earlier this month that the state’s COVID-19 restrictions will all be lifted as of May 29 but masks are still required when using public transportation.

  • You need to wear a mask on the ferry, she said – both indoors and on deck. The Authority keeps a supply of disposable masks available for ferry customers and shuttle-bus riders who do not have a face covering with them.
  • While masks are mandatory, prepackaged food and beverages will be available on several of the Steamship Authority’s passenger/vehicle ferries.
  • The ferry service is still operating at partial capacity, allowing for safe social distancing.  

Across the U.S., the novel coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the travel industry during 2020, resulting in a loss of $1.1 trillion, according to a report released in March by the U.S. Travel Association. The pain was felt in jobs as well, with travel-supported employment losing 5.6 million jobs in 2020, the travel industry trade group said.

The drop in business for the Steamship Authority was significant. Combined ridership on the Hyannis to Nantucket ferries and the Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard ferries had been tracking between 2.8 million to 3 million in recent years, McHugh said. But in 2020, the Authority only reported 2,067,301 passengers.

McHugh speculated that ridership numbers will begin climbing above pre-pandemic levels during the 2022 season.

The Steamship Authority, established by the state Legislature in 1960, runs multiple trips from Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard Island and back, as well as a fast and slow ferry from Hyannis to Nantucket. The schedule, which changes throughout the year and ramps up during the busy summer months, can be found at the Steamship Authority’s website.

The fast ferry, M/V Iyanough, is a great option for day trips, covering the 26-mile ride across Nantucket Sound in one hour, which allows more time for exploring the island, McHugh said. The 154-foot aluminum catamaran normally carries up to 400 people, including passengers and crew, but it’s operating at lower capacity to allow safe social distancing. There’s also room for luggage and up to 30 bicycles. The Iyanough features wi-fi service and flat screen TVs. This year, travelers can take advantage of a special $55 day-trip fare, which allows them to travel on the same day, round-trip, Monday through Thursday.

For a more leisurely trip – roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes for the 26-mile ride – choose the M/V Eagle, which carries up to 768 passengers and crew members, along with 52 vehicles. The Eagle allows lots of space on deck and indoors, and also features wi-fi access.

Whether traveling between Hyannis and Nantucket or Woods Hole and Falmouth, the Steamship Authority has recently implemented eFerry Ticketing, a contactless e-ticket system that makes it easier for walk-on passengers. You can buy a ticket online, load it onto your mobile device and scan the device when boarding. The e-ticket systems vary slightly for traditional and high-speed ferries. Find more information on the Steamship Authority’s website.

The Authority is also purchasing new electric buses to shuttle riders from remote parking lots to the ferry. Two environmentally friendly vehicles should be in operation for the 2022 season, McHugh said.

Find general information about parking, remote lots, trips to both islands, and safety requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the Steamship Authority’s website.

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer and freelance multimedia journalist.