Bourne Scallop Festival Moving to Falmouth

Bourne Scallop Fest 2005
KEVIN BURKE - Bourne Scallop Fest 2005

Brian A. Fleming opened his ice cream store, Canal Creamery, on Main Street in Buzzards Bay six months ago. Mr. Fleming said that the success of his operation can be charted like a bell curve, with the high point of sales coming in the midst of the summer. The end of this summer he saw a welcome boost to his sales with the numbers of people who came in because they had attended the annual Bourne Scallop Festival in nearby Buzzards Bay Park.

“We did 10 percent of our business this summer in those three days,” he said.

When told yesterday that the Scallop Fest will be moving next year from its established location in Buzzards Bay Park to the Cape Cod Fairgrounds in East Falmouth, Mr. Fleming did not mince words.

“That’s bad news; it kills us,” he said. “The attraction of Buzzards Bay loses a lot when you take away an event like [the Scallop Fest],” he said. “This whole strip will suffer dramatically because of that.”

Charles F. Stark works the counter at the Rust-Ed Art & Antiques store next door to Mr. Fleming’s business. Mr. Stark echoed his neighbor’s sentiment about the loss of the Scallop Fest.

“We made a couple of grand that weekend; it takes us months and months to do that,” Mr. Stark said.

The announcement that the festival will be moving was made by Marie J. Oliva, president and chief executive officer of the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce, during Tuesday night’s Bourne Board of Selectmen’s meeting.

Ms. Oliva said that the decision was made by the chamber’s board of directors, and cited cost, weather and the safety of visitors as the reasons for the move.

“We did not take this decision lightly, we had many discussions over the past several years,” Ms. Oliva said.

Decision Based on Several Factors

She explained that there had been serious public safety issues in the past couple of years that the board needed to address. One of the big problems is the main tent that festival-goers dine beneath and where many of the musical acts perform. She said that there have been problems in the past with flooding caused by rain that has nearly led to the festival being shut down. Two years ago, a sudden squall come through town on the day after the festival and completely collapsed the tent.

“My heart sank and I thought, ‘what would have happened if that squall came during the weekend’,” she said.

She said that the festival has also outgrown the space available in Buzzards Bay Park, noting that they have had to turn down vendors because there is not enough space.

A quarter of an acre that the festival used to have was lost when the Army Corps of Engineers paved their parking lot, she said. Further improvement initiatives that will be coming from the Bourne Main Street Committee, of which she is a member, will take even more space away from the festival, she said.

Ms. Oliva mentioned that the appeal of the Cape Cod Fairgrounds are the buildings it has that can house the festival’s craft show, kitchens for food preparation, and a band shell for entertainers.

The attraction of Buzzards Bay loses a lot when you take away an event like [the Scallop Fest].

                               Brian Fleming

The cost of renting the fairgrounds as opposed to rental of the tent is considerably less, she said. She said that the total cost of renting the tent, plumbing, electricity, the performance stage and dining tables and chairs, is $108,000 “before we make a dime.”

She said that the chamber is negotiating with the Cape Cod Fairgrounds on a percentage calculated by the number of festival attendees, she said.

Ms. Oliva told the board that, as a lifelong resident of Bourne, who has worked on economic development through the chamber of commerce and other organizations, she knows that the loss of the festival will have a significant impact on the town.

“But our options are limited, and we have to go to a place that is safe, that’s secure, that’s sustainable, and that for the long run will be able to accommodate the many thousands of people who come to the festival,” she said.

Bourne Planning Board chairman Christopher J. Farrell expressed his disappointment with the chamber’s decision to move the festival out of town.

“I just think it’s a sad day that we’re seeing,” Mr. Farrell said.

Mr. Farrell noted that the town could lose its two main events. He said the selectmen’s recent decision to deny year-round signs advertising the Pan-Mass Challenge could result in that fundraiser following closely on the heels of the Scallop Fest leaving Bourne.

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“Hopefully you won’t take offense to this, but I hope it fails and you come back to Bourne,” Mr. Farrell told Ms. Oliva during Tuesday’s meeting.

Event's Impact on Fire Department

Bourne Deputy Fire Chief Joseph J. Carrara said that as a resident of Bourne, he always looks forward to Scallop Fest weekend and likes seeing a thriving downtown. As a member of the Bourne Fire Department, he said that the event definitely draws resources from the fire department, so demands on the department are greater that weekend. He said that the biggest drawback, however, comes in the festival’s planning stages. When the town had a fire inspector, that person would walk the festival organizers through the necessary preparations, he said. Now, there is no fire inspector for the town.

“So, one day they could meet with me, the next day they could meet with Dave Pelonzi, and then they have to bring him up to speed on what they’ve been told to do,” Mr. Carrara said.

“I just think it’s a sad day that we’re seeing,” Mr. Farrell said.

The festival definitely has its critics. There are plenty of folks in town who complain about all the traffic that the festival creates downtown. Nearby neighbors to the park have complained about noise, trash, and parking troubles generated by the tens of thousands of people who attend the event each year. But this week, the overall reaction along Main Street to news of the fest’s departure from town has been disappointment.  

Ralph J. Guerra, who manages the Count Your Blessings Thrift Shop on Main Street, said the loss of the festival will have a definite impact on his store. He said that the store stays open for extended hours during Scallop Fest, and his sales always go up.

“Obviously for small businesses this will have a big impact. For most businesses, sales double, at least,” he said of the festival weekend.

Standing at the counter of her store, Antique Affair, Laurie J. Kelly, said hearing that the festival will be moving out of town infuriated her.

“We won’t like that at all,” Ms. Kelly said.

Ms. Kelly, and her daughter, Melissa C., both commented that losing Scallop Fest is not only a financial loss for businesses, but a cultural loss for the entire town.

“It’s our town’s thing,” the younger Ms. Kelly said, noting that people from across New England and as far away as South Carolina have come into the shop during festival weekend.

“It’s a part of the heritage around here, that’s what we have,” she said, adding that store owners up and down Main Street make a good living that weekend.

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