Lori Voornas of Q97.9 competes in the clam shucking contest at the Yarmouth Clam Festival Saturday, July 22, 2017. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce has canceled this year’s Clam Festival after consulting with town officials and local supporters.

“While we are disheartened at the thought of a summer without this traditional event,” chamber officials wrote in a news release announcing the cancellation, “we feel that moving forward would be a risk to our community and that seeking the monetary support it takes to hold the Festival is not in the best interest of our local business community who have had to deal with so many challenges.”

Adrienne Nardi, executive director of the chamber, said this is the first time in its history that the Clam Festival has been “fully canceled.” It has been partially canceled in past years because of heavy rain, she said.

This would have been the 55th year of the Yarmouth Clam Festival, which is always held in July and attracts about 80,000 people over three days. The festival features fun, family-friendly events such as a parade, an oyster shucking contest, carnival rides and a pie-eating contest. Local artisans sell their products, and vendors sell fried clams, lime rickeys and other foods to raise money for nonprofits.

Last year, Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady on the TV show “The Brady Bunch,” served as grand marshal of the festival parade.

Nardi said festival organizers were in “a very critical point” in planning for this year’s festival, not only for raising money to put on the event but also for the nonprofits that count on it to raise funds and have to budget for food and supplies.

“We didn’t want to risk that level of spending and involvement and planning and not be able to have (the festival) down the road, and be in a more difficult situation,” Nardi said. “It’s obviously a big bummer, but there is a really high level of understanding from many people.”

Dozens of people posted their disappointment on the festival’s Facebook page, but the majority of messages were supportive of the decision.

“A very difficult decision, but thank you for thinking of all the Yarmouth residents and festival-goers,” wrote Martha Maguire of Yarmouth.

“My dad, Howard Small, one of the originators of the very first Clam Festival, would have agreed with this decision wholeheartedly,” wrote Yarmouth native Jane Plante, who now lives in Spofford, New Hampshire.

The chamber plans to host a different community event when conditions allow to help reboot the local business economy.

“We want to bring our community together and probably have some aspects of the clam festival,” Nardi said, “whether it’s the kids’ fun run or fireworks or different pieces that we can still pull together and do something that still gives the community something to look forward to, especially with everything that’s going on right now, and also to support our local businesses that are being hit so hard.”


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