Yarmouth Digs Its Clam Festival Parade So Much, Chairs Are Lining the Route Weeks Early

Dozens of chairs were already out on Main Street Tuesday, with the parade still 17 days away

People are already lining up for the big clam festival in Yarmouth, Maine — and it's still more than two weeks away.

The festival draws in tens of thousands of people for clams, a fireman's muster, a carnival, a car show and a special parade.

The parade crowds are now so large that rows of people collect along Yarmouth's Main Street seven or eight rows deep.

In front, along the curb, townspeople now put dozens and dozens of chairs out weeks, sometimes months in advance as part of what's become a unique and somewhat unusual tradition.

"People line up for concert tickets for blocks on end, this is kind of the same thing," Maura Goessling said. "I'm surprised how early some of the chairs come out, but it's a harbinger of summer."

Yarmouth's Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the festival, takes no official stance on how soon spectators ought to place their lawn furniture along the street.

"The excitement for the festival starts early because we put on a good show," said Mark Barbalias, one of the festival's co-directors.

This year, the 50,000 to 60,000 expected festival-goers will get to experience the parade, a local celebrity clam shucking contest, a pie eating contest, as well as a carnival and car show.

They also may catch a glimpse of Barry Williams of "Brady Bunch" fame.

Still, the fuss over the chairs remains confusing for relatively new town residents.

Caroline Summa, who grew up on nearby Chebeague Island, says she regularly came to Yarmouth and would see the chairs but will be attending the parade for the first time this year.

"It was always kind of a joke for us," she said. "We didn't get those Yarmouth people."

Joke or not, the ritual has grown, with dozens of chairs already out in the elements on Tuesday, with the parade still 17 days away.

"Another week, you won't be able to cross the street without going around all the chairs, you'll have to go crosswalks and driveway to get across," said Carole Fallon, who works at a bookstore along the parade route.

Fallon said she doesn't mind them but admits the chairs have become a somewhat controversial issue for some people in Yarmouth who are upset they obstruct access to the street and sometimes get left behind for days after the parade is over.

But for many, that's a minor inconvenience for the honor of hosting such a popular event 54 years in a row.

The 54th annual Yarmouth Clam Festival will happen July 19 to the 21st.

The parade is on the 19th.

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