The Yarmouth Clam Festival is an annual three-day event that takes place in Yarmouth, Maine, beginning on the third Friday of every July. Established in 1965 as a successor to the town’s Old Home Week held in late August (which itself began in 1911), it is hosted by the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce to raise funds for approximately thirty local nonprofit organizations, churches, and school groups. The event draws visitors from all over the country. As a result, Yarmouth, a town of about 9,000 people, accommodates approximately 120,000 people over the course of a weekend. Some of the former population has made it a tradition to furnish their viewpoint for the Friday night parade with a chair weeks before the event – even as early as May, although this may be ironic.
The main festival takes place along the main street of the city. Food, drink, and merchandise booths are set up from the First Universalist Church at its southeastern end to Railroad Park, a mile to the northwest. Over the years, each organization has been granted the right to sell a particular delicacy. Examples include: The Harmony Society Barbershop, which offers Lime Rickeys; the Yarmouth Lions Club (Lemon Lucy slushies); First Parish Church (strawberry shortcakes); Yarmouth Ski Club (whole fried clams); Boy Scouts of America (pizza); and various classes at Yarmouth High School offering cheeseburgers, hot dogs, fries, chicken fingers, and soft drinks.
Other events include a parade on Friday night; a one-mile fun run (for children under twelve) and a five-mile road race (ages thirteen and up; both on Saturday morning); a fireman’s gathering and clam shucking competition (both on Saturday afternoon); fireworks (Saturday evening); a diaper derby (Sunday morning); and a professional bike race (Sunday morning). The carnival runs from Wednesday (two days before the official start of the festival) to Sunday.
Each year, a local artist draws the cover of the festival’s program of events, which depicts the previous year’s event.
Events such as the clam shelling competition, where awards are given to the fastest shuckers in professional and amateur races, bring excitement along with street dancing, running races, professional cycling, firefighters’ gatherings and the popular Diaper Derby toddler race. Music bands and artists perform on four stages, while craftsmen, artists and photographers display and sell their work. This old tradition wouldn’t be complete without a full-on carnival: a giant Ferris wheel offers spectacular views of Yarmouth from the very top, making adults feel like children again.