Yarmouth residents light up the winter skies

The great conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter isn’t the only light show in town this Christmas. Residents across Yarmouth, and presumably Cape Cod and beyond, have gone to extremes in making their properties merry and bright — with the emphasis on BRIGHT!

Thoroughfares, side streets and cul-de-sacs are ablaze with the colorful glow of lawn ornaments, giant snowmen, and brilliant LED lighting. 

“People need this in 2020,” said Adam Long, whose home at 32 Powhatan Road is festooned with hip-high candy canes, snowmen, polar bears, dazzling icicles and colors so bright that passing drivers often slow down to admire the display.

He and his wife, Alicia Wyatt, decorate their home every Christmas, but this year the couple got into the spirit earlier than normal — putting up their lights on Nov. 1 instead of waiting until after Thanksgiving. The first night he lit them up, he said a neighbor came over to thank him for giving people a reason to smile.

“That’s exactly the message I wanted,” Long said.

He’s noticed that more people around town have decorated their homes this season, and others agree.

At Anchor Ace Hardware on Route 28 in South Yarmouth, more customers came in to purchase lights this year than in past seasons, says Matt Tremblay, who handles store deliveries. Anchor Ace had a large inventory of holiday decorations to begin the year, and many of them have been sold, he said. LED strings are especially popular, because they save on electricity and the colors are so vibrant.

Local Realtor and Yarmouth resident Emily Shimansky has also noted the increase in holiday lighting, and she has her own theories about why.

More people are staying in Yarmouth year-round this year, she said, so there are more homes lit up for Christmas. Shimansky also posits that fewer people are traveling for the holidays, and because they stayed home, they got busy decorating. Her own parents opted not to go to Florida this year, so her dad, who used to decorate the family’s home, went to town with decorations this season.

Shimansky, who administers the Best of Yarmouth Facebook Group, has created a Google map of Yarmouth’s decorated homes to help others find the Christmas spirit. She said friends private-messaged her with the addresses of especially well-decorated homes, and she used their information to create the map’s destination points.

The map has more than two-dozen entries, with a few homes that are especially electric — one on Trophy Lane, another on Forest Road near the corner of Old Townhouse. Last weekend, she posted photos on the group’s page after taking a tour of her own map. Most people keep their lights on through the New Year, so there’s still plenty of time to catch the colors.

Shimansky’s suggestion: Make yourself some hot cocoa or a cup of coffee with peppermint in it; put some Christmas music on your car stereo; and take your household for a little drive. “It’s beautiful!”

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

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.

Halloween Fun by the Carload

Looking for a way to give your children a treat this Halloween — without putting their health and safety at risk?

Check out the Yarmouth Halloween Spooktacular event — a collaboration between the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce, Yarmouth Recreation and the Yarmouth Drive-In. The event — set for the afternoon and early evening of Halloween at the Drive-in on Route 28 — will feature costumes and a sing-along with the popular Toe Jam Puppet Band, trick-or-treats and a Halloween movie.

The cost is $15 per carload, with a maximum of six people per vehicle.

The idea came about via an eerie coincidence said Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce Marketing, Communications, and Events Director Jennifer Werner. She explained that the Chamber and Yarmouth Recreation were brainstorming about a way to provide safe Halloween experiences for Yarmouth youngsters and were considering a town-owned facility for the event. But in mid planning, they were contacted by representatives of the Drive-in, who also wanted to offer a safe Halloween event so the three organizations decided to partner together.

The Oct. 31 fun begins at 3:30 — as the Yarmouth Drive-in gates open and cars begin arriving and parking, Werner said. From 3:30 until around 4:15 as cars park and settle into their vehicle suites, the Toe Jam Puppet Band will perform live on stage — with all the action streamed to the Drive-in’s towering high-def screens.

As cars arrive, the children will all receive a gift packet containing coloring books, stickers, and temporary tattoos to keep them busy while vehicles settle into their spaces, Werner said.

The Yarmouth Drive-in was planned with social distancing in mind, and each parking area has ample room for remaining at least 6 feet from other patrons. Attendees are required to wear COVID-19 approved masks and to stay in their vehicle suites unless they are using the restroom. There will also be a mobile video camera operator roaming around the Drive-in grounds, capturing the children’s costumes and streaming them to jumbotrons — like you often see at sporting events, Werner explained.

Trick-or-treating will begin around 4:30 p.m., with the assistance of volunteers dressed in costumes and wearing COVID-19 masks, along with disposable gloves. The volunteers will roam from car to car, passing out candy to the children. Werner said the treats will likely be generous handfuls of candy, under the assumption that children will not be going out for their traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating. Werner said all the candy was purchased by the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce to ensure that it is all individually wrapped and that nothing could be tampered with.

Around 5 p.m., when the trick-or-treating has ended, the Drive-in will show the animated children’s movie, Hotel Transylvania.

The 91-minute, animated film features is rated PG and features the voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Fran Drescher, David Spade and others.  Werner said the Chamber reviewed multiple titles and settled on the most child-friendly option.

The movie should end before 7 p.m., which will allow families ample time for any other Halloween activities they might want to pursue, Werner said.

Find more information about the Yarmouth Halloween Spooktacular and to purchase tickets visit the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce website.

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