You’ll see a lot of great traditions this year at the Yarmouth Clam Festival, which begins Friday with the annual clam festival parade.
On Saturday, hunky firemen will once again race to pull on their suits and form a bucket brigade in the fun Firefighters’ Muster Competition on Main Street.
And if you’re a betting person, it might be wise to put a few clams on Beattie Quintal of Waldoboro, who has won the Maine State Clam Shucking Competiton 10 years in a row.
But there’s also a lot that’s new at this year’s festival, the one weekend of the year when eating as many fried clams as possible is acceptable behavior.
All weekend long, next to the carnival, golfers will be able to take the “Travelers Chipping Challenge.” Anyone who scores a hole-in-one will win an iPod Shuffle or other prize, and the sponsor of the event will donate $100 to charity.
About a third of the bands at the festival will be new. The Pete Kilpatrick Band will be playing Friday night at 8:15, and The Mallett Brothers Band will bring alt-country rock to the festival late Saturday afternoon, at 5:30. Another band new to the festival, Dominic and The Lucid, will go on at 7:30 Saturday night.
If you feel like belting out a tune or two yourself, this year the karaoke at the festival will feature a live band accompanying wannabe singers instead of a DJ on Saturday night.
“We think it will be more fun,” said Carolyn Schuster of the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce, organizer of the event. “It’s something new, and we had some folks who had participated in it in downtown Portland who said, ‘Oh this is a hoot. We’ve got to try this.’ “
Schuster also said the event area on the library lawn is being expanded to include a stage where local theater groups will be able to perform. There will be a paint-your-own-pottery set-up and face painting for the kids as well, “so it’s kind of a nice family area,” she said.
A children’s theater group will be performing some numbers from “Camp Rock,” the Disney musical, on the stage at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Performers from Maine State Music Theater will be doing numbers from their upcoming production of “42nd Street,” as well as some cabaret-style Broadway tunes, at 2 p.m. Sunday.
If your child’s too old for the 40th Annual Diaper Derby, try the new Healthy Kids Happy Kids Fun Ride at noon Sunday on Main Street at The Royal Bean. This one-mile bike ride is for ages 6 to 12. Registration Sunday will be from 11 to 11:45 a.m., and costs $14. This is a non-competitive ride, so all the kids will win prizes, and the first 50 to sign up get T-shirts, too.
In between all of these events, the food vendors at the festival will be happy to sell you plenty of fried clams and lime rickeys to wash them down. The clam festival is a fundraiser for more than 35 nonprofit groups in the community, some of which run the food booths that will feed the more than 100,000 people who are expected to attend the festival this year.
The festival goes through more than 6,000 pounds of clams every year, along with 13,500 lime rickeys, 6,000 lobster rolls, 1,500 shore dinners, 400 homemade pies and 6,000 strawberry shortcakes.
With all of those clams being consumed, it’s a good thing the clam harvest appears to be going well. “I heard from a local clammer that they are breaking records this year,” Schuster said.
Kohl Kanwit, public health director for the Department of Marine Resources, which manages the state’s clam flats, said that generally the industry appears to be doing well this year.
Beginning last August, Kanwit said, the department started reviewing areas along the coast that could possibly be reclassified and opened for harvesting. By fall, more than 2,000 acres of clam flats had been reopened.
Yarmouth and Freeport have put in a proposal to reclassify a part of the Cousins River, Kanwit said, and it looks promising, but the proposal is still in the works.
Yarmouth has a special access area where a company is allowed to do depuration digging, “which means that they take clams that couldn’t go directly to market and they clean them out, basically, through an approved process, and that area sounds like it’s extremely productive again this year,” Kanwit said.
“This is the second year they’ve been allowed to harvest in there. They use local diggers, and they also have other diggers from other places come in to do those depuration harvests. So there’s a lot of clams being taken out of Yarmouth, especially in that area.”
No matter what the harvest is like, it’s unlikely the Yarmouth Clam Festival would ever run short of the critters. The buyers for the festival place their orders in late winter or early spring so they won’t be left with empty plates.
Festival goers need some way to work off all of those calories. Saturday’s festival kicks off at 8 a.m. with the 31st Annual Pat’s Pizza Clam Festival Classic 5-Mile Road Race.
If you’d rather be on the water, the Clam Festival Canoe and Kayak Race begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Yarmouth Town Landing, and there are some changes to the race this year. In the past, the race has gone up the Cousins River and ended at the Muddy Rudder, which was a sponsor of the event. But this year, paddlers will go up the Royal River and back.
Race director Emma Pope-Welch said only people who consider themselves experienced paddlers usually enter the race.
“It starts right at the Yarmouth Town Landing, and the paddlers will paddle out the Royal River and around Lanes Island,” she said. “That piece brings them out into kind of the open ocean. It’s still pretty protected, but the total course is six miles, so it is a pretty lengthy paddle to be racing.”
The race will end at the Royal River Grillhouse, which will be offering a special menu for the contestants.
All paddlers will receive a T-shirt with the clam festival and paddle race logos on it, and first-place winners in each category will win a special hat. There are 18 categories, and some of them, like the “Canoe Century” category, have quirky requirements.
“That’s a two-person canoe with your ages adding up to over 100,” Pope-Welch said. “We have a few people in that category already.”
The junior-senior category requires that one paddler be under 18, the other over 18 — a good category for parents and kids or grandparents and grandchildren.
The entry fee is $20 per person, or $30 per person on the day of the race. Proceeds benefit the Maine Island Trail Association.
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: