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Nantucket Daffodil Festival | One Million Daffodils

Yankee Plus Dec 2015


Nantucket Daffodil Festival | One Million Daffodils
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It seems that everyone becomes a flower child during the Nantucket Flower Festival in April.

The 2015 Daffodil Festival will be held on Saturday, April 25 from 2 pm to 5 pm and Sunday, April 26 from 10 am to 4:30 pm at Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm, 33 Bartlett Farm Road.

The man with the daffodil head wrap was impossible to ignore. There he sat, big smile, friendly wave, on a green bench on South Water Street, as streams of tourists filed past him on their way to Nantucket’s downtown center. Many of those strangers waved back; others stopped to chat; more than a few wanted a photo. In any other place, during any other weekend, he might have seemed too odd to approach, but on Nantucket, during the island’s annual Daffodil Festival, Eric McKechnie was a minor celebrity.

“Oh, look at that,” one woman chuckled to her husband as she reached for her iPhone. “Can I have a picture?”

McKechnie, whose face was reddening in the intense morning sun, beamed: “Sure!”

It was all a bit silly, but then that was sort of the point. Nantucket’s Daffodil Festival, which takes place on the last weekend of April, isn’t for the earnest or serious of mind. For an island just emerged from winter’s dark and isolation, the event packs a rightful springtime giddiness. It’s also the unofficial launch of a tourist season that runs all the way to December’s Christmas Stroll.

“It’s that time of year when we roll the cobblestone streets back out,” one longtime Nantucket resident told me.

Indeed. Stores reopen, lawnmowers fire up, and the general clog of window shoppers on Main Street that defines much of summer begins to take shape. And it all comes together beautifully, colorfully, maybe even a bit cartoonishly, on Daffodil Weekend, when all of Nantucket seemingly dresses in yellow. There are antique-car and dog parades, a hat pageant, a mile-long picnic, and the anchor event: the annual and tightly judged daffodil flower show.

And this being, well, a party, there are plenty of daffodil-inspired sights. Like: perfectly groomed poodles in perfectly tailored yellow outfits and grown adults in full-on Tyrolean outfits. There’s the Daffodile Wrap (chicken and cilantro) at Cook’s Café and the official weekend drink, the Daffotini, at most any bar.

And of course, there’s Eric Mc­Kechnie, who said he’s been wearing his daffodil headpiece here for 15 years. The husband of the woman who’d been taking pictures of him finally asked, “Is that thing comfortable?”

McKechnie didn’t pause. “No,” he said.

Daffodil Weekend was the brainchild of the late Jean MacAusland, a Nantucket summer resident and the former publisher of Gourmet magazine, who in 1974 landed on the idea of organizing an American Daffodil Society–sponsored flower show on the island. Her vision was wrapped around the ambitious plan to also plant one million daffodil bulbs throughout the island.

Both goals quickly came to fruition, and in 1978 the event spawned the antique-car parade. A few years later, Daffy Weekend was integrated into the lifeblood of the Nantucket community and became an anchor of the still-emerging shoulder season. Today, some 9,000 people descend on the island each year for the event, pumping important dollars into its restaurants, stores, and hotels.

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Ian Aldrich


Ian Aldrich


Senior editor of Yankee Magazine: Ian, a native New Englander who has worked and freelanced for Yankee for the past decade, writes feature stories, home pieces, and helps manage the magazine's up-front section, First Light. His stories have ranged from exploring the community impact from a church poisoning in a small town in northern Maine to dissecting the difficulties facing Nantucket around its problems with erosion. In addition to his connection to Yankee, Ian worked as a senior editor of Cincinnati Magazine for several years.

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