Hundreds of chairs are already lined up along Main Street for the Yarmouth Clam Festival parade, which won’t happen until July 21. Staff photo by Jill Brady

YARMOUTH — The chairs were wet, the ropes were sagging and the whole space-saving enterprise along Yarmouth’s Main Street looked beaten down, as if it knew it was the subject of an overblown brouhaha. Even those who had been there from the beginning of the great chair and rope debate associated with the 52nd annual Yarmouth Clam Festival seemed to wish the news media would let the issue, which began on social media, die.

The issue: People have been placing chairs along the parade route for the parade on the first night of the annual clam festival (which runs from July 21-23) for as long as longtime residents can remember, usually by the Fourth of July, sometimes even earlier. Some people even string rope between chairs, to widen their stake on the valuable street-side real estate. With over 100 groups signed up to participate in the parade this year, it’s no wonder many people would rather watch the floats go by from a chair.

The tradition is indulged and even abetted on some level. Vendors for the festival set up around them. At North Yarmouth Academy, where the chairs are packed the densest, those who maintain the lawns are kind enough to pick up the chairs, mow and then restore them to their spots. Nat Tupper, about to celebrate his 27th festival as town manager, has a ritual he practices every Friday before the parade, tipping the chairs up so that if they’re wet, they have time to dry before anyone puts their rump into them.

But after recent comments on the Yarmouth Community Network’s Facebook page lamented the use of ropes, the media descended. Chairs are quaint – ropes, not so much. They were seen as a new phenomenon intended to hog more space; rope-spreading, as it were. Was the lovely town of Yarmouth in a fury about this?

More like a mild case of disagreement.

In a longstanding tradition of the Yarmouth Clam Festival, hundreds of chairs are lined up along Main Street weeks before the festival’s parade. Staff photo by Jill Brady

“This was a simple comment that somehow got latched onto and made into a much bigger story than it was,” said Joe Grant, in an email. His wife, Jenna, who had been an early commenter on the group about the issue, had declined to be interviewed by “multiple news outlets” that wanted to explore her rope resentment because she felt the discussion had run its course, he said. He agreed with her, saying in an email that discussions over picking up dog waste or fencing off pools “garner as much or more commentary response” on the group’s Facebook page. “Those are hardly newsworthy events either.”

The ropes aren’t a new thing, according to Tupper. “People have been doing that all along,” he said. Not that he’s rejoicing. “I will tell you that those in municipal government would prefer people didn’t do that because it gets in the way and could trip people, but nobody is making a big deal of it.”

No rope-related injuries have been reported, although on Thursday, Rhonda O’Shea, who works at the law office of Neil Shankman & Associates right on Main Street and had put the firm’s chairs and ropes out that very morning, did watch a truck pulling out of Hancock Lumber hit a chair with a rope attached and drag both chair, rope and the attached line of chairs a little ways down the road. The only casualty? The first chair.

Barry Godowsky has been roping off the sidewalk in front of his 1810 home for a good 15 years. His rope is strung with cunning little signs marked with his address. It’s a neat rope, classy even, and a necessity, he says, because his family has plans for that real estate. “We set up scaffolding,” Godowsky said. His family has lived in this same spot for 35 years, and they’ve had big parade watching parties for almost all of them. Fifty families might come, he said.

“It’s how you meet your neighbors,” said Godowsky.

Around town, questions about the chairs and their notorious rope companions were greeted with smirks, eye rolls and shrugs. One man who declined to give his name described it as a “distraction.” But the media fuss did have one result that will be welcome to rope resenters: By the time chief of police Michael Morrill drove into work Thursday morning, some of the ropes had disappeared, including one that he’d stood in front of while a television crew interviewed him on Wednesday. The complaining and the resulting attention seemed to have had an impact. “Some people may have taken that to heart,” he said.

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

mpols@pressherald.com

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