The pandemic has inspired folks to do all sorts of stuff at home they’ve never tried before, from baking bread and planting gardens to online karaoke and virtual karate lessons.

Now it’s time to try a do-it-yourself clam fest.

The Yarmouth Clam Festival, one of southern Maine’s signature summer events, was to be held Friday through Sunday. But the COVID-19 pandemic prompted organizers in early April to cancel the event for the first time in its 55-year history.

Cancelling the festival means that thousands of people won’t be able to see the Maine State Clam Shucking contest, the firefighter’s muster, the giant parade or the Diaper Derby race for tiny children. But it doesn’t mean people can’t try to have fun on their own in the spirit of the clam festival.

Here are a few ways you can try to recreate some of the clam festival’s signature moments at home.

Hundreds of chairs are lined up along Main Street for the Yarmouth Clam Festival parade in 2017. Photo by Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

FIRST, THE CHAIRS

One sure sign of the clam festival every year is the endless line of chairs. It’s a time-honored tradition for Yarmouth residents to put their chairs out along the festival parade route weeks – maybe months – in advance. Well before the festival weekend, people can drive Main Street in Yarmouth and see chairs everywhere. Make your own neighborhood a mini-parade route by putting all your available chairs along your street and sidewalk. Ask neighbors to do the same. Then, on your designated do-it-yourself clam fest day, drive around the neighborhood wearing a yellow rain slicker and hat – like clam fest mascot Steamer the Clam does. Or maybe just sit in the rows of lawn chairs – spaced out 6 feet per family – and enjoy a lime rickey (see below) while talking loudly to your neighbors.

AW, SHUCKS

The Maine State Clam Shucking Contest is always a highlight of the clam festival. Shuckers don aprons and rain caps and see how fast they can dig the little creatures out of their shells without cutting off a finger. How fast do they shuck? In 2009, Beattie Quintal of Waldoboro won the event by shucking 45 clams in two minutes, at least the ninth time she claimed festival honors. Quintal described her method to the Press Herald: “You put the knife in there and reel it around. It really is, I guess, a lot about speed, you know.” If you’ve never shucked before, you might want to go a little more slowly. Teach yourself and your family or friends to shuck and then have a contest of your own. Start by buying a clam knife, and then check out some of the many shucking tutorials online, including from TV chef Andrew Zimmern.

Lime rickeys are normally big sellers at the Yarmouth Clam Festival. Photo by Joel Page/Staff Photographer

OH RICKEY, YOU’RE SO FINE

Though it’s a clam festival, there’s a drink served every year in Yarmouth that may be more popular than the fried clams – the lime rickey. The Downeasters men’s chorus runs the festival’s official lime rickey booth and most years sells more than 13,000 of the old-fashioned summer drinks over three days. By comparison, about 6,000 pounds of clams and 6,000 lobster rolls are usually sold. Making your own lime rickey is fairly simple, ingredient-wise. Start with a 16-ounce glass, then squeeze in the juice of one lime, fill with seltzer water and ice, and stir in some simple syrup, a liquid sweetener, to taste. Or you can use granulated sugar. Find more recipes for making pitchers of lime rickeys online.

Cool off with your own version of the bucket brigade competition. Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

MAGIC OF THE MUSTER

One clam fest event that seems perfect for backyard summer fun is the firefighter’s muster. It’s something that happens at fairs and festivals all over Maine, including at another event canceled this summer, Bath Heritage Days. Teams of firefighters compete to show off their traditional firefighting skills with buckets, hoses and water. Lots of water.

You could have your own “bucket brigade” contest, to see who can fill and carry buckets of water from one spot to another, then empty them. There are lots of chances for cooling off during that event. You can see who in your family is fastest at rolling up the garden hose or, like the firefighters do, test your accuracy with a hose by hitting targets. Hook up a target to a clothesline – maybe a plastic bucket on a rope – and then have two people try to hit it with water from two sides. Whoever moves the target the furthest wins, officially. But whoever gets the wettest is the real winner.

The Diaper Derby is usually a highlight of the Yarmouth Clam Festival. Photo by Doug Jones/Staff Photographer

DASH AWAY

The Diaper Derby races are always a big hit at the clam festival. Contestants are divided into three age groups – crawlers, who are one to 12 months old; toddlers, 13-24 months old; and senior toddlers, 25 to 36 months old. If you happen to have kids that age hanging around your house, it might be fun to see how fast they can crawl/toddle. But if not, look for other cute creatures around the house and host your own Doggie Dash or Kitty Cruise. The dogs would probably love running against each other, while the cats will just do whatever they want.

 

 


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