Giving tree adds to Yarmouth Clam Festival success
YARMOUTH — Organizers said the 45th annual Yarmouth Clam Festival was a success thanks to beautiful weather, booming sales and the celebration of Herbie, Yarmouth's beloved elm tree.
"Judging from the lines at the food, information, and craft booths, everything seemed very busy," festival spokeswoman Lisa Perkins said. "We were easily within the 100,000-120,000 people that we planned for."
Several thousand visitors hit the ground running, and by 10 a.m. on Friday the festival was busy, usually a good indication of the rest of the weekend, Perkins said.
Perhaps mother nature cooperated because the weekend honored Herbie, once New England's largest American Elm tree, which lost its battle with Dutch Elm disease this spring after surviving 217 years.
This year's theme, "Three Cheers for Champions – Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow," also honored Frank Knight, Herbie's 101-year-old long-time caregiver, who was lead champion and grand marshal of the festival parade.
The hour-long parade on July 16 featured more than 20 floats honoring all kinds of champions, along with antique cars, marching bands and, of course, Shriners.
By far the largest champion at the festival, the Herbie "cookie" – a slice of the tree 7 feet in diameter – was on display on Memorial Green throughout the weekend.
Guests were encouraged to touch and admire the large cross-section, and to guess its weight. An estimated 3,000 ballots were cast, and two winners were announced because of a tie, Perkins said: Kyle Groves of Yarmouth and Julia Himmel of Quincy, Mass., won by guessing 690 pounds — closest without going over the actual weight of 693 pounds.
The winners will receive a basket of Herbie products, including a cutting board, book mark, "ashes" or wood shavings, a Herbie book and t-shirt.
Local woodworkers also had an opportunity to benefit from Herbie, as they experienced a boom in recognition and sales over the weekend.
Marcia Noyes, director of Yarmouth Community Services, said many of the artists and woodworkers volunteered their time to sell Herbie products.
"This was really the first time a lot of people were able to be face to face with Herbie products," Noyes said. "We sold out of anything that wasn't mass produced with about $15,000 in Herbie product sales."
Kim Dailey of Dailey Wood Working in Carthage was hired to create Herbie products on the spot. At the festival, he turned bottle stoppers on his lathe for an audience.
"There is a waiting list for everything I'm making," Dailey said, adding that the bowls he'd made before the festival sold out in four hours. "Most of the people watch me work on a bottle stop and then once I'm finished ask to buy that one."
However, Dailey noticed that some visitors were there just to get Herbie products, including one couple who purchased a bottle stopper from Dailey in honor of their cat, also named Herbie.
"People just seem to open up if they're watching you work. They feel like they can tell you stories," he said. "What the town is doing with the Herbie project is phenomenal. It has been an economic boom for the state."
But the tree's giving legacy won't stop there: proceeds from Herbie product sales will go to the Yarmouth Tree Trust to purchase and plant new trees in town.
Victoria Fischman is The Forecaster news intern. She can be reached at 781-3661.