The 2022 Cape Cod Pirate Festival

Ho! Gather ‘round ye’ and I’ll tell ye a tale. Chris Schultz, his mother called ‘em when he was knee-high to a parrot. That’s the man who had an idea to batten down the hatches and bring pirate life to Cape Cod. After working for a better part of 20 years as a performer, manager, developer, agent, and director of the Florida Renaissance Festival, he began motivating businesses to run their work virtually when COVID started taking its toll. Chris started a specialized event planning company,  New Latitude Event Solutions, that focused on virtual events for small non-profits and small businesses, noting that many small businesses didn’t have the tools or resources to get the job done. “I kind of jumped in to help out,” he says. As in-person events began to return, friends and family began to encourage him to go back to his roots. “So I decided to launch the Cape Pirate Festival last year with about two months to plan it.” He goes on to say “It was a frenzy. And it was a ton of fun!” To say it was a great success is an understatement. About 2000 people attended the event by the end of the first week, and Chris knew that this was the beginning of an amazing thing. It seems that he was right!

Tickets to the event will shiver your timbers with Swashbuckling Adventures offering family-friendly fun with interactive fairy tale shows, storytelling, and original music calling to our inner Vikings, Celtics, sea-battled pirates, and wenches. Respectively. Each day of the 4-day event has a unique theme inviting guests to get into character and play along for an increasingly immersive experience. Whether you’re a sea-legged old salt or young-blooded landlubber, you are invited to dress and talk like a pirate, be an ambassador representing your own otherworldly realm, or enjoy a 4 Day Season Pass and get exclusive access to after-hours scallywaggin’, VIP booty, and bragging rights. Contests and prizes will be awarded for the best costumes, photos, and more!  Don’t have a costume? Avast ye! You can look in ye duffle come up with your own, or dig into your coffer to throw down a few doubloons to get yar’self the garb for the occasion. No need to pillage and plunder if you can’t find the perfect piece, as you’re sure to find last-minute costumes, jewelry, accessories, and souvenirs with an assortment of vendors that will be scattered across the grounds. So, pop on your peg leg, grab a parrot and your hearties, and join the fun!

Practice your song and dance, maties, because there’s a song around every corner. This year’s festival is packed full of local and national talent including the war pipes and drums band Cu Dubh, featuring TikTok sensation Ally the Piper, the exclusively assembled pirate-themed rock and roll band The Plankwalkers, and a locally homegrown group of Chauncey singers, the Whydah Washashores. “We have wonderful talent here on Cape,” Chris proudly exclaims. “We’ve got some of the best voices and performers on Cape Cod!”

If you’d like to splice the mainbrace at the pub, you’ll find it staffed by the Harlot Queens, who’ll be pouring and performing in a pirates-meet-coyote-ugly fashion. The 1000 Islands Pirate Society will launch a “stationary pub crawl” consisting of drinking games and traditional games, telling stories as they move from table to table interacting with the crowd. If pub life isn’t your bag, a wide variety of food will also be available from vendors at the festival.

“It’s a blast! It’s great for families.  It’s great for young couples and groups of friends who want to go out. There’s a little bit of everything.”

-Chris Shultz, Founder of the Cape Cod Pirate Festival

The 2nd Annual Cape Cod Pirate Fest will occur at the YARMOUTH FAIRGROUNDS located at 669 MA-28 in West Yarmouth for “two roguish weekends” June 4th & 5th and June 11th & 12th from 10:30 am – 6:30 pm.

This event is partially funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

This blog is funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

(Britt Skinner is a freelance writer.)

Doing the Steps: Edward Gorey and the Dance of Art

A centuries-old sea captain’s home in Yarmouth Port became the final dwelling place for a quirky, but reclusive artist when he moved from New York in the 80s. It was there that he spent his remaining 14 years of life with his curious assortments of oddities, over 26,000 books, and most importantly his “people” as he endearingly referred to them, his cats. Edward Gorey’s work as an author, illustrator, and designer spanned nearly 50 years, earning him a Tony Award for Best Costume Design for his work on the Broadway revival of Dracula, and a cult following for his exquisitely gothic style of illustration and macabre surrealism.

“I must say, I don’t always understand Ted’s books, but I do like them.”Edward Gorey’s mother, Helen

In 1953 Edward Gorey self-published his first book, The Unstrung Harp, thus beginning a cascade of literary nonsense with distinctive pen and ink lines depicting the delightfully dreadful in over a hundred more books, and by the time of his death, several more unpublished manuscripts stashed neatly, (and haphazardly), around his home. His work became the inspiration for Lemony Snickett’s Series of Unfortunate Events, Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline for which Gaiman lamented was written after Edwards’s death, thereby missing its chance for his illustration. Edward himself wrote his books using both his given name and its anagrams, such as Ogdred Weary, Raddory Gewe, and D. Awdrey-Gore. As private as he was popular, Gorey preferred to avoid the spotlight. Very much an animal lover and advocate, he usually had up to 6 cats, the perfect number according to him. Before he died he established The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust to manage his legacy and estate, and to support his favorite animal welfare organizations locally and afar. The upstairs of the house continues to be occupied by cats, keeping the spirit of the home authentically charmed.

Today, 22 years after his death, The Edward Gorey House stands as an archive for his admired collections of rocks, trinkets, books, and the grotesque. Cheese graters are casually displayed with skulls. A preserved Belgian waffle and a mosaic of checks from his favorite dining spot, Jack’s Outback II, are framed together on the kitchen wall. Handmade puppets and dolls adorn the rooms and halls amongst his characters and illustrations. One hapless child’s legs and feet protrude from a rug. A collection of old matches is stacked on the mantle. A bottle of lye on the windowsill.

Past year’s exhibits have included He wrote it all down Zealously: Edward Gorey’s Interesting Lists in 2020, and Hapless Children: Drawings from Mr. Gorey’s Neighborhood in 2021. This year’s Exhibit is Doing the Steps: Edward Gorey and the Dance of Art, which shares with us the influence Edward’s passionate infatuation with the New York City Ballet had on his art and life.

 “Gorey once said that he could visualize that progression of ballets in his head, like a movie he could play forward or backward, decades of form and movement and story—literally, at his fingertips.”

The Edward Gorey House is open from early April through the end of December each year.

8 Strawberry Lane • Yarmouth Port, MA 02675

508-362-3909 • edwardgoreyhouse@verizon.net

Click here to see house visiting hours, tour times, and admission info. Reservations are encouraged due to limited capacity. Admission is free for members.

This blog is funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

(Britt Skinner is a freelance writer.)

Things to Do Over Spring Vacation 2022

April 18th through the 22nd is the official dates for Spring Break in Massachusetts public schools, meaning that in just a few short weeks households on Cape will be teeming with energetic kids and teens chomping at the bit for something fun to do, and well-caffeinated parents who may be underprepared to fill that void. Spring Break isn’t just for the littles however, we grown-ups need to unwind too! Luckily there is something for everyone just around the corner to banish the school-free boredom and maybe even (gasp!) learn something!

For the Kids

The Cape Cod Gymnastics’ mission is “to encourage and provide any child a beginning in athletics and start them on the road to a healthy and fit future.” The center offers a Vacation Week Program from Monday, April 18 to Friday, April 22. Kids ages 3.5 and up will be kept entertained and on their toes with activities such as gymnastics, ninja, games, and challenges. Register for classes online, by email at tumble@capecodygmnastics.com, or by calling 508-744-7751!

The Cape Cod Natural History Museum in Brewster is providing interactive play and crafts to celebrate Earth Day during school vacation week, including daily 90 minute Guided Family Field Walks on the trails outside the museum, a daily Littles Lab, geared toward children ages 3-7. Other activities include building a butterfly house, creating a birdfeeder, and nature journal art. Have fun with Interstellar Explorations complete with your very own “Nebula Spin Art”, Moon Adventure, a hands-on science-based challenge game for small groups of (up to 8) people. Interstellar Explorations and Moon Adventure are best suited for kids ages 8 and up. The activities are free with museum admission, but space is limited so be sure to register to save your spot!

For the Grown-Ups

Ritual, a cozy metaphysical shop bursting at the seams with crystals and gems, walls full of tarot decks and new-age books, canisters of ethically sourced herbs and potions, and handmade witchy wares by local artists, is also the host to otherworldly classes and events on a regular basis, and April vacation week is no exception. Visit the events calendar on their website or visit the Facebook page and sign up to nourish your chakras with Energy Healing or get a glimpse into your soul with private psychic or tarot readings. Learn to develop your own mediumship skills or get your Reiki Attunement and Certification.

The Music Room Gallery & Wine Bar claims to combine “a wild passion for music of all genres,” and invites us to “soak in fine art, fine wines, and rare craft beers with an infusion of the creative magic that lives only with live performances.”  Join an event at the West Yarmouth’s own  Music Room and enjoy craft beers, craft cocktails, and wines while attending an open mike with Jason Violette & Friends, or live shows by teenaged prodigy and piano player Veronica Lewis, The Empty Pockets, and more!

For the Whole Family

Taylor-Bray Farm tucked away just off 6A in Yarmouth Port, is considered a local gem to nature lovers and families with kids, and is home to goats, donkeys, sheep, and chickens. Among the animals, you may meet is Chloe, a magnificent Scottish Highland Cow who can often be found lazing about in the pasture.  A boardwalk leads into Black Flats Marsh where generations of osprey have nested on the platform 100 miles north, and then you can enjoy a short walk with the kids along the Don McIntyre Trail.  The website boasts amazing recent archaeological evidence that the area has been “seasonally inhabited for as long as 10,000 years! The barn is currently under renovation, and they ask that visitors park in the area near the farmhouse to avoid the work area. There is a farm store on location offering clothing and hats, shopping bags, prints, and stickers. There are no fees at the farm but donations are greatly appreciated. Taylor-Bray Farm is located at 108 Bray Farm Road North, Yarmouth Port, MA, and is open “daily from dawn to dusk.”

Whydah Pirate Museum boasts the “largest collection of pirate artifacts recovered from a single shipwreck anywhere in the world!” Open Friday-Sunday from 11 am – 4 pm, (last admission at 3), guests are invited to survey the museum’s multiple exhibit wings and explore the “world’s first discovered pirate ship” as hundreds of thousands of patrons have since its opening its doors in 2016. This family fun event is rich with history and will captivate peg-legged parrot lovers of all ages. Make sure to check out the treasures in the gift shop, and make off with pirate booty of your own! Walk-ins are welcome, but entry tickets can be purchased in advance online or by calling the box office at 508-534-9571.

Ten Pin Eatery, located in the Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis, is a favorite spot for kids and adults of all ages. Open 7 days a week until midnight, it is the perfect way to spend a vacation day when the no-school honeymoon period winds down and boredom begins to take root in restless children. Choose from a riveting game of laser tag, bowling, virtual reality, escape rooms, or spend some time in the arcade. With a full-service restaurant and bar on-premises, there is something for the whole family.

This blog is funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

(Britt Skinner is a freelance writer.)

Another Cape Cod Spring Has Arrived

Finally. At long last the lingering, biting Cape Cod winter is breaking into Spring. The final crests of snow have melted away to reveal the stretch and yawn of the first crocuses, and the impatient shoots of eager daffodils. The Spring Peepers can be heard in the bogs and marshes, the Ospreys have returned to their platforms to nest, and the local gardeners have thumbs that are growing greener with each passing mild day. So many of us are itching to get outside and rake the leaves, amend our soils, and stock our greenhouses. Novice gardeners or those who are new to Cape have a lot of things to consider, especially with botanical projects that can take months of love and attention to detail before the gorgeous and often delicious payoff. Seasoned growers will advise utilizing native plants whenever possible, that are cold hardy and appreciative of our sandy soil and local pollinators, but even experienced gardeners will benefit from up-to-date information as standards and recommendations develop over time. C.L. Fornari is a gardening guru residing in Sandwich, co-host of Plantrama podcast, and author of several books about gardening on Cape Cod, and when asked to share her expertise she was happy to oblige.

When Fornari moved to the Cape in 1993 she was unable to find a book about Cape Cod gardening, so she wrote it herself. She has since written several books about gardening on Cape Cod, with her book Sand and Soil being the most recent. She goes on to explain how local gardening standards have changed significantly in the past 30ish years since her first Cape gardening book was published in the mid-90s. “The plants that we thought were great at that time have proven to be not so desirable. Some plants that were commonly sold at that time are now “banned in Boston” (and the rest of the Commonwealth) because they are invasive. And there are new pests, diseases, and plants that people should know about. It was for those reasons and more that I wrote a new book about Cape Cod gardening and didn’t just update the original one.”

Leave the Leaves?

While we may be ready to banish the leaf piles from our flowerbeds, Mother Nature has other ideas. The leaves that have been insulating our lawns and Spring bulbs all winter have also been providing shelter for overwintering bees and butterflies, and although the sight of tulip leaves peeking through the crisp remnants of fall is enough to have us reaching for the rake, we of course also want to be mindful of the sleepy pollinators who are about to once again embark upon the priceless work that our very existence depends on. What are we to do?

Fornari answers, “This question is a great example of how standard landscaping practices have changed in the past ten years, and how we’re all called to be more flexible in our thinking.  Back in the day, we did a “fall clean up” and a “spring cleanup.” All the leaves were removed in those clean-sweeps, and usually (horrors!) removed from the property. Now we know better about the value of leaves for plants and pollinators. But it’s not either or.” She tells us that although you’ll see posts talking about waiting to clean up a garden until temperatures are above 50, there is no hard science behind that number. “Homeowners need to know that it’s not all or nothing. You can remove some leaves anytime, take others out in May, and leave some in place as Nature intended.”

When it comes to amending soil, Fornari contends that we should never assume that our soil needs improving, pointing out the thousands of mosses, trees, and all the plants in between that thrive comfortably without help. She recommends grouping plants that we know have soil requirements, (using Hydrangeas as an example), in areas where we can amend the soil from the top-down, adding “Soil ‘improvement’ practices have changed in the past twenty years. We know now that tilling, digging, and replacing native soils should be avoided whenever possible.”

Gardens this time of year tend to be limited to early perennials including favorites like basket-of-gold and bleeding heart, so Fornari suggests adding pansies to your space for a burst of color and a touch of cheer.

The Green Spot Opens for Business

Pansies are what Jim Behnke, owner of The Green Spot Garden Center, says are his biggest seller this time of year. The 4 decades-old family-owned garden center opened for the season on March 21st and has a nursery and 2 greenhouses on-site in addition to a full line of annuals, perennials, roses, shrubs, and trees. Jim looks forward to seeing early patrons popping in for seed starters and specialty soils, and to check out the annual specials of things like Miracle Grow and Hollytone. They have onions and garlic in stock, followed soon by cold-loving plants like lettuce and broccoli, and a few weeks after that, potato seedlings. For those of us rushing to get started on our veggie gardens, Jim warns not so fast. “The biggest thing you have to pay attention to is weather,” he cautions, mentioning that it won’t be time to get many crops in the ground until up to May and June in some cases. “Sometimes you gotta pinch yourself and remember to be patient.”

The Green Spot is located at 1085 Route 28 in South Yarmouth and is open seven days a week from 9-5.

This blog is funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

(Britt Skinner is a freelance writer.)

Lights Bring Holiday Glow to Streets of Yarmouth

They start before Thanksgiving — taking inventory, checking extension cords, and restocking their supply of blinking LEDs, light-up candy canes, and remote-controlled inflatables. Then, when it’s turkey sandwich time, the work begins in earnest — stringing icicle lights, wrapping strands of white-and-crimson LEDs around tree trunks, and wiring outdoor speakers to fill the darkness with holiday music. As they toil, they wave at passers-by, who honk their horns because they know what’s coming in the nights to follow.

Melanie Corso’s house

These are the light-makers. The ornament people. The Christmas decoration devotees.  And now that the darkest weeks of the year have arrived, it’s time to get out and enjoy their efforts. So, make yourself a Thermos bottle of cocoa, maybe with a splash of peppermint. Put on your favorite Christmas music. Pack the kids and friends into the SUV and venture through the darkness … just to see the lights.

Melanie Corso’s flamboyantly decorated home in Yarmouth Port is typical of the extravagant effort that homeowners put forth each year.

She starts around Thanksgiving, with help from her daughter, son-in-law, and son. They spread out inflatable snowmen, reindeer, and puppies — some of them up to 12 feet tall. They unravel extension cords and test the capacity of every outlet. And they string up endless cords of colored lights.

The team effort takes about six hours a day for four days, she said. But the result is more than worth the effort.

Her Cape-style home at the corner of Setucket Road and Trophy Lane is ablaze each night, and passing cars slow down to admire the display. Illuminated candy-canes line the driveway; a giant puppy wags its tail, while another swivels its head inside a decorated doghouse; rainbow-colored icicle lights hang from the trees, and a team of reindeer pulls against the weight of Santa’s sleigh.

Melanie tells the story of a recent visit after she came home from work:

“My doorbell rang, and so I got up,” she said. At the door, she was confronted by a young boy — maybe 9 or 10 years old — who looked like he could have been raising money for a local charity. So, she went out on the porch to talk.

“It was the sweetest thing,” she recalled. “He said, ‘I just thought I’d tell you that I love your Christmas lights. They’re awesome.’”

It was just a boy and his friend on bicycles, she said. “But that meant the world to me.”

Throughout the holiday season, visitors stop in their cars to admire the Corso home, which isn’t far from a bike path where people sometimes pause. Or they drive around the corner to view the displays from every angle, she said.

“We’ve had grandparents pushing strollers with kids coming up and just enjoying the lights,” she explained. “And that’s what makes me happy.”

Melanie said she and her now-adult adult children still drive around to admire the lights of others, and so four years ago, her daughter, Becky Reed, started the Christmas Lights of Cape Cod Facebook group. The myriad videos and photos posted on the site attest to the artistry of holiday light-stringers from Bourne to Provincetown. The site also includes information and links to holiday decorating competitions and light-tour maps.

The group has grown to nearly 2,000 members, posting and commenting on displays in Yarmouth, Mashpee, Falmouth, Dennis, Harwich, Eastham, and other Cape communities. Of course, her own house on Trophy Lane occupies the page’s coveted cover spot.

A few recommendations: A friend of Melanie’s in Dennis has a house on Route 28 with lights that sync to FM radio for a multimedia show. There’s also a home on Icehouse Road that’s a perennial favorite. Adam Long’s residence on Powhatan Road in Yarmouth is another dazzling spot that was featured in last year’s holiday lights blog. And there are so many others in the posts and comments by members of the group.

LEDs IN HIGH DEMAND, HOLIDAY SPIRIT ABOUNDS

At the Anchor Ace Hardware Store on Route 28 in South Yarmouth, manager Jim MacNaught says sales of holiday lights are brisk this year — unlike the balmy late-autumn weather in November and early December. The warm autumn is one of the reasons why so many people have put up extravagant displays this season, he surmises. Temperatures rising into the 60s allowed homeowners to work outdoors for extended days.

The ongoing stay-at-home trend experienced throughout the pandemic has also played a role, as more people turned their attention to decorating. McNaught and others say there was a noticeable surge in holiday lighting last year. And this year, even before the Christmas decorations were pulled out of storage, yards were glowing with sculptures, LEDs, and inflatable figures for Halloween. Anchor Ace doesn’t stock inflatables, McNaught said. But lights — especially the energy-efficient LEDs — have been extremely popular.

Ace sold much of its holiday lighting inventory last year, and McNaught says he has worked hard to meet the demand this season, despite occasional supply-chain issues. In addition to selling lights, he’s seen plenty of them in breathtaking displays at homes around the mid-Cape area. And amid the hardships of COVID-19, people are looking for cheer and reaching out to help others.

He noted a moving story from the 2020 Christmas season when a customer secretly gifted one of his employee’s money for a brand-new electric bicycle. The longtime store worker, Raymond Best, was known for his unwavering kindness, as much as for pedaling 40-miles each day to and from his home in Mashpee — through the rain and snow and summer heat.

The anonymous gift was documented in “The Gift,” a YouTube video that MacNaught describes as a heart-warming turn on the seasonal customer service story. Usually, the holidays are defined by what the store’s staff can do for the community, he said. “But this was a case of the community doing something for us.”

The holiday season is all about bringing joy to others. And some do that with gifts, while others spread goodwill by lighting their homes for everyone to enjoy.

Most homeowners keep their displays intact well into the new year, so if you’re looking for a dazzling nighttime drive, there’s plenty of time to get out and see the lights.

This blog is funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

(Andy Tomolonis is a nonfiction author and freelance writer and editor.)

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.

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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.