YARMOUTH — Saturday morning attendees at the Yarmouth Clam Festival had big questions on their minds such as, “What exactly is in a lime rickey?” and “Who will win the celebrity clam-shucking competition?”

Visitors said there was a lot to dig at the 53rd annual clam festival, which kicked off its biggest day Saturday with a flapjacks-and-sausages breakfast and a fun run for kids 12 and under, followed by musical performances, horse and wagon rides, carnival attractions, an arts and crafts fair, the aforementioned clam-shucking contest, a firefighters’ muster and fireworks.

The biggest attraction for some festival-goers was the food, which included fried clams, steamed clams, clam chowder, clamcakes, lobster, shrimp, crab, haddock, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, fried dough, ice cream, strawberry shortcake, blueberry sodas, lemon lucys and lime rickeys.

Longtime clam festival attendees Nora and Marco Graves of Portland sat at a picnic table in the shade Saturday sipping on lime rickeys and marveling at the taste.

The ingredients in a lime rickey appear to be lime juice, sugar, club soda and ice, Marco Graves said, but the ones he makes at home just aren’t the same.

“I have not been able to recreate the taste myself yet,” he said.

Yarmouth resident Bill Goddard was in charge of putting on the clam festival for 22 years, but this year he’s only a volunteer.

“I’m also the deputy fire chief,” he said. “Today I’m selling T-shirts.”

Goddard said 100,000 to 125,000 people attend the three-day clam festival each year. It always begins on the third Friday in July and runs all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The primary purpose of the festival is to raise money for a wide variety of local nonprofit organizations, Goddard said, adding that the total amount of money raised each year is a closely held secret.

Goddard said his primary motivation for volunteering at the festival each year is his sense of community spirit.

“I’m what they call a townie,” he said. “I love the town of Yarmouth.”

Several nonprofits used the festival as an opportunity to engage in fundraising activities Saturday. Gary “Grunt” Sweeney of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association was raffling off a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle to benefit several charities, including Kieve Veterans Camp, K9s on the Front Line, Healing Through Horses and Veterans Adaptive Sports & Training.

“If you buy a (raffle) ticket and you don’t ride, the dealer that we bought it from will buy it back from you,” Sweeney said about the motorcycle.

This is the first year the motorcycle association has participated in the clam festival, he said, and as of noon Saturday it had received “a lot of donations.”

Yarmouth Alumni Association President Ryan Cote was working a booth that featured a stack of Yarmouth High School yearbooks going all the way back to the early 1960s. In addition to fundraising through a charity golf tournament, he said the association uses the clam festival to attract new members.

“For us it’s not about fundraising; it’s about connecting alumni,” Cote said. “We definitely benefit every year from the alums that come back for the festival.”

Over at the clam-shucking competition, local radio host Lori Voornas of Q97.9 WJBQ was preparing to face off against her arch nemesis, news anchor Amanda Hill of News Center Maine (WCSH/WLBZ), who along with various teammates has won the competition several times.

“This is the seventh or eighth year I’ve participated, and I’ve never won,” Voornas said.

Participants in the competition were paired up into two-person teams, and each team had five minutes to shuck as many clams as it could manage within the time limit. Hill said Voornas had announced her new strategy for winning on her radio show prior to the competition.

“On the radio, Lori threatened to stab me in the leg,” Hill told the crowd. “It’s very Nancy Kerrigan.”

According to Voornas, whose team ended up in last place, Hill was unfazed by her jovial threat.

“She said, ‘Bring it on, girl,’ ” Voornas said about Hill. ” ‘I leave the clam-shucking bleeding every year anyway.’ ”

Despite her past victories, Hill and her partner, Rob Nesbitt of News Center Maine, ended up in second place this year, bested by the team from WGME CBS 13.

Another regular component of the clam festival is its arts and crafts fair. On Saturday, there were about 140 tents set up with artists and craftspeople selling paintings, glass sculpture, jewelry, clothing and more.

Oil painter Fran Henderson of Truro, Massachusetts, brought a variety of her coastal New England-themed paintings, including works featuring mermaids, whales, lighthouses and ships. Henderson said she made her first appearance at the clam festival in 2017.

“It was very successful for me, so I returned,” she said.

 

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