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Nantucket Daffodil Festival | One Million Daffodils

What quickly became obvious, however, was just how local this party was; the whole weekend actually. Anyone can join in, but at its very essence, Daffodil Weekend serves as a sort of reconnection among Nantucketers—summer residents and year-rounders alike. Up and down the ’Sconset party it was hard to miss greetings like “How was your winter?” and “Good to see you again.”

Nantucket Daffodil Festival Daffy Dog Parade
Photo/Art by Carl Tremblay
One of the weekend’s biggest winners was Linda and Bob Phaneuf’s St. Bernard, Heidi, who took top prize at the Daffy Dog Parade.
Nantucket Daffodil Festival
Photo/Art by Carl Tremblay
David Billings II, a supporter of the show, with his dog, Blanche.

One of those happy to be back and seeing old friends was Susie Belcher, a Lakeville, Connecticut, resident who’s been coming to Nantucket since the 1970s and summering on the island the last 18 years. With her was her boyfriend, Mike Goulet, who upon experiencing his first Daffodil Weekend the year before, became determined to enter the antique-car parade. He bought a ’66 Pontiac GTO over the winter, sank $20,000 into restoring it, and in a buzzer-beater of a finish managed to get it running a few days before this year’s event. Together, the couple sat in beach chairs, sipping cocktails, and wearing matching 2013-rimmed glasses.

“This weekend is just more local and less touristy,” Belcher said. “And that makes it special. I guess not a lot of people think about coming to Nantucket in April. But for the rest of us, we get to see people we haven’t seen since September. Everyone is getting pumped for summer, which will be here before you know it.”

Strange as it may sound, what you won’t find during Daffodil Weekend on Nantucket are fields upon fields of daffodils. It’s more subtle than that: selected plantings along certain roadways or traffic islands; in small front yards and in window boxes. Put another way, Jean MacAusland’s original vision of a million bulbs popping with color each spring still holds strong.

So does her flower show. That Sunday, the final day of Daffodil Weekend, my family and I headed out to Bartlett’s Farm, a seventh-generation family farm, which recently started hosting the event. More than 25,000 varieties of the daffodil exist, and a few hundred of them were showcased here, residing on long tables that filled out a big greenhouse.

Nantucket Daffodil Festival
Photo/Art by Carl Tremblay
Blue-ribbon favorites and other winners at the Daffodil Flower Show at Bartlett’s Farm.
Nantucket Daffodil Festival
Photo/Art by Carl Tremblay
A few of Jean MacAusland’s original million daffodils along Polpis Road.

Accepting donations at the front table was Julie Hensler, a Boston architect who regularly competes in the event. This year, however, was the first in some years that she hadn’t entered a flower.

“I had 100 flowers in last year’s show, and this year just decided not to enter anything,” she said. “That meant I could love all my flowers, instead of spending hours picking through them, looking for blemishes or little slights that make them less than perfect.”

But while relieved to be handling “door management,” Hensler still cherished the show. “The first year I saw it, I just fell in love with it,” she said. “The judge paraded around with a bell, very proper and distinguished. He’d call out, ‘Ladies, ladies, three minutes. Three minutes.’ And there was this mad dash by the women to put their flowers in their test tubes. I couldn’t stay away from it. It was just so old-fashioned.”

After getting our fill of blue-ribbon winners, my family and I parked our car back in town, and just started walking. Main Street’s atmosphere was in stark contrast to the scene just 24 hours before. A scattering of people were out window-shopping, including two relieved women who were happy to have the island back to themselves, even if it was only for a few more weeks.

“I like this,” one of them said.

“I know,” her friend offered. “It’s so quiet after yesterday.”

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

Author:

Ian Aldrich

Biography:

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.
Updated Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
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