Yarmouth Clam Festival turnout strong despite economy, red tide

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YARMOUTH — Visitors to the 44th annual Yarmouth Clam Festival were less concerned about the threat of red tide and the economy than expected, and enjoyed the free entertainment and good weekend weather.

Food vendors said people spent their money on clams, steamers and lobsters all weekend, and while sales were down for a few craft booths, most were pleased with their sales.

Janet and Bill Verville, owners of Mulberry Downeast in Kittery, said their herb dips and gift baskets sold very well. They have been participating in the festival on and off for eight years.

“We expected everything to be down, but all things considered, we did very well,” Janet said. “There was a good crowd, and we were very pleased.”

Nina Houghton, a designer of sea glass jewelry and accessories, said she lowered her price points and was successful in her sales.

“I had no idea what to expect, and was very surprised,” she said. “I think it is easier for people to hand over a $20 than to spend $25. This was my best year so far.”

Local business women Meg Harpool and Alison Beyea of mEG + aLI in Yarmouth, said they did better than last year as well.

“I think the great turn out shows a renewed confidence in the economy,” Beyea said. “People want to spend their money on what they care about, they want to make a connection and buy locally.”

Beyea said keeping the money in the community is good for businesses and ultimately good for the country.

“I can’t say everyone did better than last year, but we all did well,” she said.

Kathy Richards has been volunteering at the Royal River Chorus food booth for nearly 25 years. She said only a few people asked about the threat of red tide and most were confident eating the food.

“These are the best clams in the whole world and they are right here in Yarmouth,” she said.

She said there appeared to be fewer people this year, but said everyone she talked to was having a good time.

“Business is off slightly this year, and it is not as crowded, but it has been a lot of fun,” she said.

Wayne Cook of, Portland, said he visits the festival every year, and he too thought there were less people than usual.

“Because of the economy, I think people aren’t buying that much,” he said. “But when they do, their money goes to support high school sports, local organizations and businesses. That’s the part I like the most about the festival.”

Karen Watterman, a volunteer at the Ski Club food booth, said people were spending money on clams and seafood without hesitation. Even at $16 for a large and $9 for a small portion, there was a long line for clams on Sunday afternoon, and a 20-minute wait for food.

“People wait all summer for this and it is a major fundraiser for us,” she said. “Without looking at any numbers, I think this has been a good year.”

Festival spokeswoman Lisa Perkins said overall it was a “fabulous turn-out,” and the food booths were very profitable.

“I think there were large enthusiastic crowds, and we couldn’t have asked for anything better,” she said. “We were thrilled with the turn out and the weather.”

Perkins said festival goers may have been more conservative purchasing crafts, but said being a free festival, visitors have the option to enjoy a lot for nothing.

“People don’t have to pay for the live entertainment and really don’t have to spend anything at all,” she said. “If they choose to spend money on food or parking, it goes to a great cause. Whatever money is spent, is money spent well.”

Next year’s festival will take place July 16, 17, and 18 always on the third Friday in July.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net

Clam Fest 2009-5805-2.jpgThe official drink of the Yarmouth Clam Festival is the lime rickey, as usual served with a song.
Clam fest.jpgA pile up during the Yarmouth Clam Festival Bike Race Sunday resulted in one man breaking his leg. (photo courtesy Paul Schreiber)

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Clam Fest 2009-5817-7.jpgEmma Maierhofer leads the clam breading station at the Yarmouth Ski Boosters booth.