Yarmouth Clam Festival: 50 years of friends, food, free fun

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YARMOUTH — Before the art shows, road races, and thousands of people, the Yarmouth Clam Festival was small and simple, featuring only a parade and firefighters’ muster.

Janice Seabury, a Yarmouth resident who’s been to every Clam Festival since the first one in 1965, said a lot has changed. She said it’s hard to even remember what the first one was like.

“How do you remember one when you’ve been to all of them?” Seabury said Monday. “They’ve been pretty much the same, except for the exponential growth.”

Seabury said all she remembers of the first festival was that it was “very, very small.” This year’s 50th Clam Festival will be held Friday-Sunday, and is expected to lure 125,000 people.

“Had you asked me 50 years ago what the Clam Festival would have grown into, I never would have imagined it being like it is now,” Seabury said.

Seabury said she has volunteered at many Clam Festivals over the years, as have her children and now her grandchildren. She said many factors contribute to the success of the festival, but the biggest is that it’s a free, family-oriented event.

“It’s a free destination for people,” she said. “There’s just so much to do that you don’t have to pay for.”

One of the free events is the Friday night parade, which has people reserving space with strategically placed lawn chairs weeks in advance. Seabury said she doesn’t set a chair out herself, and that the practice hasn’t always been part of the festival.

“I think I saw chairs out earlier this year than ever before,” she said. “Thirty years ago you could put a chair out on Friday morning and there’d be plenty of space.”

Seabury said a lot of people look forward to the festival because it’s a way to see people they haven’t seen in a while.

“For me personally it’s a way to connect with people from away,” she said.

Seabury said she plans on seeing many old friends at this year’s festival, because July 18 is also her 50th high school reunion. She graduated from Yarmouth High the same year the first Clam Festival took place, and is now planning the reunion.

Seabury, who was an English teacher at Yarmouth High School for 28 years, said her favorite part of the festival has always been seeing students she knows.

“Running into kids in different settings, those are some of my favorite memories,” she said. “I always liked seeing the kids who were in the parade.”

Seabury said it’s hard to imagine the Clam Festival getting even bigger than it is now. She said she’s not sure where new things would go, since part of the appeal is that everything is contained around Main Street. She said she also doesn’t know what types of new activities could be added that aren’t already taking place.

Seabury said whatever changes happen to the Clam Festival in the future, she’s confident it will continue to be a Yarmouth staple that will keep growing in popularity.

“I won’t see another 50,” she said, “but I don’t think it’ll go away.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Sidebar Elements

Yarmouth resident Janice Seabury has been to every Clam Festival since the first one in 1965 and plans on going to the 50th, which takes place Friday-Sunday.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.