Nantucket Daffodil Festival | One Million Daffodils
The downtown scene was six-toe-free a few hours later, as people lined the wide cobblestone Main Street for the antique-car parade. Cheers erupted with every car—and there were more than 100—that pulled into place. The vehicles were a sight to behold: a 1957 BMW … a ’35 Ford Woody … a 1924 Dodge firetruck …On and on they came, some from the island, others that had been exclusively shipped in for the weekend. As they were introduced, the event’s emcee and Chamber of Commerce president, Bill Ferrall, served up an inside joke or a snappy one-liner to each driver. When a 1968 Ferrari pulled up with a trio of women sharing the car with a male driver, Ferrall pointed his finger at the vehicle. “Is that one of the Goldfish girls in front?” he asked, garnering a round of chuckles.A few hours later the party ratcheted up a few decibels out in ’Sconset, where the parade had concluded. Main Street became a rolling festival of food and music. Bands took up positions in the middle of the street. Some dancers struck up a performance, and when they finished, a group of women yelled out, “Encore! Encore! Encore!” And so they began again.
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.”
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.
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
“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.”