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Advance planning for the Nantucket Daffodil Festival

Nantucket Daffodil festival
Nantucket Daffodil festival
©Stillman Rogers Photography

Nantucket is an easy getaway vacation from the city, and late April is the time to go. Not only is the weather warm enough to convince us that winter is definitely over, but it is also the time when the cheery yellow and white of daffodils covers the island roadsides.

A spring festival island style

The organizers of the annual Nantucket Daffodil Festival, held this year on Saturday, April 26, calculate that there are now more than three million of the flowers in town and along the roads to welcome spring and the many visitors that come to the island to view them each year. It all started in 1974, when summer resident Jeanne MacAusland convinced the Garden Club that it was a good idea. Thousands of bulbs were planted, and over succeeding years many thousands more have been added, creating the overwhelming display that greets visitors today.

The day of the festival is filled with events all over town. Local businesses join in with activities and promotions and the entire town is dressed for the occasion, often in fascinatingly imaginative hats. The Garden Club holds its annual flower show at this time and also conducts a narrated historic walking tour, pointing out historic structures and telling stories of the people that built and occupied them. In addition to the car parade, there are three more parades: one for children, a Daffy Hat parade and a Daffy Dog parade. There are two used-book sales, Ghost Walks and a host of other activities. The whole list of events for the event is available online.

A festive antique car parade

One of the Daffodil Festival’s primary attractions is the antique car parade. The parade in 2013 saw more than 100 antique and vintage vehicles, appropriately bedecked with daffodils, passing through the crowds that lined the main street. Nantucket saw its heyday in the mid-nineteenth century and the buildings that stand along its streets are almost all veterans of the town’s glory years. The parade, inspired by Ms MacAusland in 1978, starts at 10am.

Festive picnics in the fresh air

Following the Antique Car Parade, the whole crew travels down the road to the Sconset section of the island for a gigantic Tailgate Picnic. Not an ordinary tailgate picnic, this one invites imagination and the out of the ordinary. You might find PB&J or tunafish sandwiches, but you are more likely to come across fancy hors d’oeuvres, lobster and quiche accompanied by champagne and fine wines. And, of course, everything is decorated to honor the daffodil.

This year a new event has been added to the list, this will be a Children’s Beach Family Picnic. It takes place on April 26 between 1 and 4 PM on the beach at Sconset. You provide the blanket and the lunch and they will provide a concert by a One-Man-Band as well as rides in an antique fire truck and a story telling hour with pirates.

Getting to Nantucket:

The secret is to first get yourself to Hyannis or to Harwich. Hy-Line Cruises and the Steamship Authority both depart Hyannis. Both have frequent trips that take about an hour from Hyannis, but Hy-Line ( about $77 round trip) has the most frequent departures. The Steamship Authority also operates ferry service from Hyannis (about $69 round trip). Nantucket Island Ferry operates from Harwich. At this time of year there is one trip in each direction daily departing Harwich at 8:50am and returning at 4:10pm (round trip fare about $74). Nantucket Island Ferry has free parking for day-trippers. Getting a car to the island can be expensive and unnecessary. Bring a bike (expect to pay $15-$30) or plan to walk, as the place is not that big.