I wished every New Mainer was with me to watch as Maine’s best were displayed in the parade during the afternoon of July 15 at the Yarmouth Clam Festival.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth.

I had my lawn chair out on West Elm Street across the now-closed Andy’s Handy Store. This is the area where I run at least a few miles almost every day. Often, it is deserted, with the exception of the whoosh of cars. This Friday evening, people filled the curbs, long lines formed at the food booths and some people were even watching the parade from the windows of their apartments. Yarmouth was different. It felt like the population of the entire state was here.

We cheered as antique cars and marching bands rolled by. I personally felt a moment of pride and a feeling of fervor for my town. The Yarmouth Clam Festival is a great way for everyone to connect to our state and the traditions of Maine. It is a great way for New Mainers to get a glimpse and a taste of the real Maine we don’t often see.

This year’s theme was “Maine! The Way Life Should Be.” This is the way we should be. A community that cheers for their best. I don’t often see and interact with my neighbors in Yarmouth since everyone is busy, driving or at home. I barely see anyone at the Royal River Park on a summer day run. But the Yarmouth Clam Festival has become a time to catch up with fellow Yarmouth residents I had not seen in a while. We walked up and down Main Street gorging on some Maine delicacies and discussing life in general (with the exception of politics).

I have lived in Yarmouth for eight years, and while this is not my first Clam Festival, without a doubt it is the one where I felt a sense of belonging in this community of Mainers. It was the first festival held since the summer of 2020, when I felt connected to this community as we rallied together after the killing of George Floyd. We marched from the high school down West Elm and stopped at the Town Hall. I was the keynote speaker, engaging with young people in our town of Yarmouth. We were angry and upset by what was happening in our country. During the parade Friday, it was an honor to see some of those faces I met in a rally for justice in 2020. We were not rallying or upset this time. We were all smiling and cheering as our town put together a happy event for all of us.

To the stranger I met during the parade who talked about his experiences over the decades of attending the Clam Festival: You inspired me. You have taken mental notes or maybe written notes of all those years of experiences. I took photos, videos and notes of everything I saw, heard and experienced at this year’s Clam Festival. It will be a cherished memory. This tradition will go on for so many years to come and I want to be part of it so I can tell the stories in all the languages I speak.

I am proud of everyone who contributed to making this year’s Yarmouth Clam Festival memorable and joyful. Yarmouth may not have much diversity. We may be one of the whitest towns in the country, but I see a sense of hope and openness. I see a community that is proud of the traditions of this town, and this state, and also open to welcoming other traditions and celebrating them. I want to say thank you in two languages, my native language Somali and English: Mahadsanid. Thank you.

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