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.