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.)

Yarmouth Port Christmas Stroll 2021

Looking to recapture some old-fashioned holiday cheer this Christmas? Then kick off the season with all the traditional trappings in Yarmouth Port.

Sip hot chocolate or candy cane tea. Listen to holiday carolers and get your children’s photo taken with Santa Claus. Or just gather up gift ideas as you sample tantalizing treats in a mile-and-a-half-long buffet line — all for free.

Yes! The Yarmouth Port Christmas Stroll is back.

“We are so excited to bring back the Yarmouth Port Christmas Stroll for 2021,” said the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce’s Marketing, Communications, and Events Director Jenn Werner. “It is a great family event that is completely free.”

The Stroll was placed on ice last year due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, but it returns on Sunday (Dec. 5) providing a heap of holiday hospitality to visitors along Route 6A.

The event will be held from 1-4 p.m., rain or shine, followed by a tree-lighting ceremony at 4 p.m., with a blessing by Rev. Will Vaus of the First Congregational Church and caroling on the Village Green. If the weather turns chilly or if your feet get tired, just hop onto a free trolley, with stops along the way.

“The Stroll will be full of activities, live music, food, and new entertainment,” Werner said.

There are crafts with Mrs. Claus at Just Picked Gifts; refreshments and performances by Rosalita’s Puppets at Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod; live music by the Harper and the Minstrel at Chapter House; Lady Feyline’s Fantastikal face-painting and popcorn at Edward Gorey House; and a roaming balloon artist from Fun Clowns Balloons.

Meanwhile, at the Inn on Main, a pianist will perform seasonal music while guests sip holiday punch from innkeeper Sarah Bradburn’s grandmother’s recipe and munch on gluten-free oatmeal-cranberry cookies made by co-owner and chef Chris Kennedy. Simply Vintage of Cape Cod will serve cookies, hot cider, and doughnuts; Jack’s Outback II will have hot dogs and hot chocolate; and Taylor-Bray Farm will serve up free cider, hot chocolate, and cookies (with holiday trees, wreaths, centerpieces, and other gift items available for purchase).

A favorite stop for families is the Captain Bangs Hallet House, an authentically furnished sea captain’s home on Strawberry Lane. The Historical Society of Old Yarmouth hosts a visit from Santa Claus, who poses for free photos with children. The pictures are processed by Walgreens and can be picked up later at the South Yarmouth store.

This year, due to pandemic-related precautions, Santa will be greeting youngsters on the historical home’s porch. And masks will be necessary for children who want to meet with Santa or for families who choose to tour the home’s decorated interior, according to Bill Archie, program chairman for the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth.

Another hot spot is the Yarmouth New Church, where musical performances are scheduled throughout the afternoon. From 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., listen to some 20 tubists from Christmas Tuba  “oom-pah-pah” as one, followed by Cape Cod Carolers at 3 p.m. The carolers will later join the Regency Brass Band at the Village Green and perform at the tree-lighting ceremony scheduled for dusk.

Participating businesses, civic groups, and nonprofit organizations include: Captain Bangs Hallet House, the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth, Chapter House Cape Cod, Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, Design Works, Edward Gorey House, First Congregational Church of Yarmouth, Harvest of Barnstable, the Inn on Main, Jack’s Outback II, Just Picked Gifts, Lighthouse Keeper’s Pantry, Simply Vintage of Cape Cod, Taylor Bray Farm, The Friday Club, The Pampered Pearl Skin Care Studio, Voila!, Yarmouth New Church, W.D. Price, Yarmouth Port Library, and Yoga of Yarmouth Port.

Find more information about the stroll on the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce’s Events Calendar. The YCC site also has a detailed map of the Yarmouth Port Christmas Stroll route, with a guide to attractions at every stop.

The event is sponsored in part by the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Fund.

Great holiday gift ideas from Yarmouth shops

So you want to do the right thing and shop locally to support small businesses. But without the Yarmouth Port Stroll or another big holiday event on the calendar this year, you might be searching for a place to begin. And time is getting tight.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

With some pre-shopping research, we’ve compiled a list of great local gift ideas — each one memorable, unique, and available from a Yarmouth-area business. Plus, the stores we’ve highlighted here all provide COVID-safe shopping — whether indoors with social distancing measures, through online sales, or via telephone and curbside pickup. So deck the halls, check your list, and shop local.

Owl betcha they like this!

Got a bird-lover on your gift list? Head straight to Wild Birds Unlimited in South Yarmouth for feeders, foods, bird-bath heaters and other habitat helpers.

One of this year’s hottest items is a screech owl house, said retail associate Patty Donohoe. Owls typically choose their nesting sites before the winter, so right now is the perfect time to set up a nesting box, she said. Donohoe cautions that you’ll need a ladder, as the owl boxes should be placed in a tree, between 8 feet and 20 feet high.

It may take a while for the owls to locate your nesting box, but if you’ve heard the birds in your neighborhood, that’s a good sign, Donohoe explained. As the name suggests, Eastern Screech Owls will shriek at night. But they also make a haunting whinny, much like the sound of a distant horse.

Because screech owls are common on Cape Cod, Wild Birds Unlimited keeps the cedar nesting boxes in stock, says store owner Tom Thompson. The owl homes come with a bag of wood shavings and sell for just under $75. Call the WBU store at (508) 760-1996 or visit the Wild Birds Unlimited website for more info. Or drop by the shop at 1198 Main Street in South Yarmouth.

Crystal power at Instant Karma

Maybe you want to help a friend fight off the creeping negativity. Then consider giving the gift of earth energy with a crystal from Instant Karma of Cape Cod.

The new-age gift shop stocks amethyst, opalite, tourmaline, quartz and “things you could look at for hours,” says Daniel Thibodeau, an associate at the West Yarmouth location.

He says a geode can make a great centerpiece on the living room coffee table, but there are also stones you can carry around in your pocket for personal energy. “Each stone has a different kind of property.”

Thibodeau recommends a free-standing quartz or amethyst cluster, which are relatively inexpensive — priced in the $20 to $50 range. “They’re also the kind of thing that any person is going to stop and look at and appreciate,” he said. “They really do take your breath away.”

Instant Karma also has CBD products and a hippie boutique. Check out the options online at instantkarmacapecod.com.

Something sparkly from Harvest of Barnstable

Put some magic into your holiday gift bag this year, with a glittering home decor item from Harvest of Barnstable.

The Sparkle Tree is a 14-inch acrylic tree, complete with a silver base and star on the top. But the real magic lies in the battery-powered LED lighting, which illuminates the glitter floating inside.

The trees sell for $49.95 and are a big item this year, says store owner Pamela Parker.

Harvest of Barnstable also stocks locally-made wreaths, wall designs and floral arrangements, along with jewelry and bath items. “We make all of our wreaths and baskets and arrangements,” Parker said. “So we’re really pretty unique.”

Call or visit the store at 89 Willow Street in Yarmouth Port, 508-362-4595 or order online.

Gifts from local artists at Design Works

Looking for something completely different — like maybe a set of mussel shell tree ornaments, a Sandy Neck beach towel or musky-scented Sea Clay Soap from the Atlantic Sea Co. in Falmouth?

You’ll find a wide assortment of locally made gifts at Design Works. Shopping local is important, says store owner Margaret Hill, and buying local items made by local artists is even more so. The Yarmouth Port shop stocks hand-made ceramic bowls, hand-painted holiday ornaments, platters, mugs and other gift items — made by New England craftspeople, she said.

Because of the pandemic, local artists who typically sell their ware at craft fairs and festivals haven’t had the same opportunities this year, she explained. There have been some virtual festivals, but people like to actually see the pieces they buy, she said, noting that the small store allows them to do just that.

If you’re short on gift ideas, The Design Works website features a gift-buying guide, as well as items in its Holiday Collection. Visit the shop at 159 Main Street, Yarmouth Port, or order online.

Need more local gift options?

If you still haven’t found the right gift, here are a few more suggestions.

  • Find something in green at Agway of Cape Cod, 686 Route 134, South Dennis. The farm supply store stocks wreaths, trees and myriad items for the gardener on your gift list. If you want a gift that will be cherished for years, consider a dwarf citrus tree, which can be grown indoors during winter months and placed outside during the summer. Meyer lemon trees are especially productive and easy to grow, with aromatic white blossoms followed by large and flavorful fruit.
  • For friends with a sweet tooth, try the Toffee Sampler at Robin’s Toffee by the Sea, 12 White’s Path in South Yarmouth. The “deliciously addictive” toffee is made from a family recipe by Robin Costa. The toffee sampler includes original toffee, plus dark chocolate sea salt toffee, Vienna coffee toffee, peppermint toffee, and more. Check out other options at Robin’s Toffee by the Sea website.
  • If you’re looking for a special toy, head to Cape Cod Toy Chest, which is running a month of Black Friday specials. Deals include 20 percent off books for kids, as well as 20 percent off items from Mellissa & Doug, Learning Journey, and Wild Republic. Check out the options online and visit or call the store at 529 Route 28, West Yarmouth, 508-593-8699. Finally, don’t forget to grab a Toadally Funky Frog, free with any purchase.

For even more local gift ideas, check out the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce’s Shop Local directory, with a listing of local stores and links to their websites.

Beginning Dec. 10,  participating stores will receive visits from Salty Sally, with daily photos posted on social media. Guess the location correctly, and you’ll be entered to win a gift basket of Yarmouth goodies. Be sure to follow and like the YCC’s Facebook page.

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