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.

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.