The Yarmouth Clam Festival, voted as Maine’s greatest summer festival in the state, is full of family fun and an amazing community of volunteers. We chatted with Carolyn Schuster, executive director of the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce, to tell us about the festival, which celebrates its 50th year this year, and why she thinks it earned a whopping 92 percent of votes in the final round of MaineToday.com’s Maine’s Greatest bracket-style competition.
The festival has a community energy that people like. It’s family-oriented with lots of things for lots of people of all ages to do. And let’s not forget about the food!
Well, lots of things, but mostly two things: It’s a community event that benefits local nonprofits, and it offers good clean family fun. Volunteers come forward to make it happen every year and work with their neighbors. Although it is hard to describe, there is an emotional fabric at the heart of this festival.
One year we brought the TV show, Jeopardy! to the festival, and the next year, Wheel of Fortune. People could test into these TV shows, and even though we didn’t have Pat or Vanna, we had celebrities that brought out a lot of folks. Then there was the time about 20 years ago, a couple of volunteers painted the street in front of Key Bank with the festival’s logo. The can said the paint would last a year but it took 7 or 8 years for that paint to wash off the street.
Steamer has been the festival mascot for about 10 years, and there’s only been one costume. But, his wardrobe includes several hats. He has a sou’wester, a baseball cap, a “Cat in the Hat”-themed hat as well as a birthday one. The birthday hat would be appropriate for Steamer this year wouldn’t it?
It’s a collection of very dedicated and adventuresome people. But the original Steamer will be back at the festival this year. The fellow who originally wore the Steamer costume comes to the festival now with his child. Steamer’s son, Little Neck, is a kid-sized costume and the original Steamer’s son has worn it. So it is a family affair for them.
That was the idea of Ben McNaboe, who was the previous assistant director and was with us for 6 or 7 years while he was in high school and college. Although he is off to a master’s program this year, he put the bones of that program together to make it happen.
Plan for everything you can think of, and then go with the flow to keep it fun. I think that’s why it has been sustained all these years. It’s fun for us if it’s fun for other people. That’s the reward.
Yarmouth Clam Festival
July 17-19, 2015