Yarmouth Clam Festival parade tradition tweaked; some are ticked

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YARMOUTH — The annual Clam Festival is a summertime tradition that both bonds and celebrates the community, and invites visitors from all over the country to enjoy music and arts, events, competitions, and of course, food.

Over the past 52 years, another tradition has formed in preparation for the festival: the lawn chair brigade. 

It has become a ritual for residents to set up lawn chairs days, sometimes weeks, in advance to reserve space along the festival parade route on Main Street. 

With no reports of chairs ever being taken or vandalized, the tradition – equally amusing and strategic – has gone off without a hitch in past years.

But this year there’s a new tactic, and it’s generating complaints.

The conversation went public July 5, when resident Jenna Grant posted on the Yarmouth Community Network Facebook page that she did not agree with a new trend of stringing rope along the parade route to reserve space, instead of placing chairs. 

The post immediately gained traction, racking up 47 “likes” and more than 30 comments. 

Grant noted two ropes on the sidewalk across from the Irving station “taking up almost the entire sidewalk.” She said the tradition had gone from being “cute” to “ridiculous.” 

Another resident, Jenny Davis Prinn, replied that “anyone is welcome to block off a section on the parade route for themselves and their friends and families … (she) sees nothing wrong with using the rope” and suggested the issue and “wonderful tradition” be left alone. 

In an email to The Forecaster, resident James O’Keefe confessed that he doesn’t “love the practice of tying a rope between two street signs (or whatever else is handy) as a substitute for a colorful row of lawn chairs.”

In an interview July 10, O’Keefe explained that he enjoys the chair tradition, but “what (he) likes about the chairs, (he doesn’t) like about the ropes.”

“(Chairs) are colorful and charming,” O’Keefe said. “There’s something nice and inclusive about them. A rope to me is like the angry man saying ‘get off my lawn.’ It feels less inclusive.”

After a reply to the post suggested that any complaints be taken up with the Police Department, Grant wrote that she intends to sit in on planning meetings for the 2018 festival. 

“I truly want to help find a solution to this so traditions can continue, but don’t get out of hand,” Grant wrote. 

Neither Police Department Lt. Dean Perry nor Adrienne Nardi, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said they have received any formal complaints about preparations for this year’s festival parade on July 21. 

“Certainly if someone was concerned they could take it up with (the police),” Perry said. He noted there is no restriction on where and how people can reserve space, but “if it obstructs pedestrian travel, there would be an issue” and the obstruction would be removed immediately.

O’Keefe said he doesn’t plan on filing a formal complaint, but hopes by bringing the matter to light others may “organically” be prompted to “think twice” before using rope to reserve spots. 

“The chairs to me add something to the town of Yarmouth, that the rope detracts,” O’Keefe said. 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

The traditional early July scene along Main Street in Yarmouth: Lawn chairs reserving places to watch the annual Clam Festival parade.

Some Yarmouth residents are upset that lawn chairs are being replaced along the Clam Festival parade route by things like this traffic cone and rope.