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8 Great Things: October on the South Coast

Good news, everybody! October sees a resurgence of events — so many that we had to leave some really good ones on the chopping block. There are even a couple of South Coast Almanac events in here. Since we are shamelessly plugging a couple of our own events, we added a bonus. So this month you’re getting 9 Great Things for the price of 8 Great Things. 😉

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8 Great Things: September on the South Coast

We used to hate September because it meant the end of summer. Then we realized that September had all of the best things of summer (beautiful perfect beach days! fresh local produce!) without any of the bad parts (heat waves, crowds). And now we love September. Sometimes — especially these times –what we need is an attitude adjustment.

But we digress! We’re here to tell you our top picks for the month ahead: 8 things that will undoubtedly make your September that much better. A special shout out to Anne Whiting Real Estate for sponsoring this monthly roundup!

1. The Symphony is Bach!

Join the New Bedford Symphony for their opening concert for the 2020-21 season and the whole symphony will be performing with some great music, including Bach (get it? they’re bach!) Like all things, it’s a bit different this year. Purchase tickets (for just $10) and the symphony will email you a Youtube link to watch the concert along with your fellow music lovers. See more info about the Symphony here. BUT WAIT, there’s more! Buy a ticket, and South Coast Almanac will mail you a complimentary copy of our September issue. Because we’ve missed the symphony and we want to help welcome them back by encouraging more ticket sales! September 12, 7:30 pm. Buy tickets here. 

2. Remember Festivals and Crowds

The Narrows Center is giving a welcome look-back to the festivals, feasts and parades of Fall River — splashy parades through downtown, communal events in city parks and neighborhoods, religious processions, or celebrations of cultural heritage. The Feasts and Festivals exhibition features about 250 photographs of the city’s feasts and festivals from the 1950s to the present, selected from the archives of Fall River’s Herald News and the work of anthropologist, Andrea Klimt. Settle in with a cup of tea, maximize your screen and enjoy the crowds! The gallery is right here. 

3. Get Out There and Ride!

The South Coast Bikeway is holding its third annual Pedal for the Path ride this month — it’s a socially distanced casual ride with no registration fee. There are multiple options for mileage. Join to show your support for the completion of a bikeway connecting the entire South Coast, from Rhode Island to Cape Cod. September 13 from 9 to 3. See more here. To register, go here. 

4. How Do You Like Them Apples?

Did someone say apples? This month, go pick your own at local farms. They usually are ready for harvesting starting in mid-September but check in with the individual farms to see when the season officially starts this year for them:

Keith’s Farm, 1149 Main Street, Acushnet. Check out their website or Facebook page for more information. Young Family Farm, 260 West Main Road, Little Compton. See their website for more information.

Salsa lessons at the Z, (pre-Covid-19)

5. Have Some Salsa!

No, not chips & salsa! Put the chips & salsa down and join the Zeiterion Theater for three Wednesdays in September when they teach us to salsa virtually. The Afro-Cuban-based dance has influences from Puerto Rico, Colombia, and New York and is also the most requested dance styles in The Z’s Creative Classroom. Join them for three Wednesdays in September to learn Salsa (and work off some of those chips) over Zoom!  6 to 7 pm. September 16, 23 & 30. Pay what you can for the entire course. See here for more. 

6. A Little Walkabout!

A new trail opening in coronavirus times is like a cool new restaurant/club opening in normal times. A new scene! Lots of buzz! This one lives up to the hype. The DNRT and Buzzards Bay Coalition acquired the Dike Creek Reserve last year to conserve the 128-acre Apponagansett Bay Farm.  If you like boardwalks, bridges over creeks and a nice 2 mile hike (we do!), this is the place to go. Bakerville Road, Dartmouth. See more here. 

7. Eat Local!

Farmer’s Markets are still going strong. Check a new one out this month and feel good about supporting local farmers and artisans. Click on the links to find out more about the individual markets. Sundays in Fairhaven, Swansea, and Carver. Mondays and Wednesdays in New Bedford; Fridays in Dartmouth. Saturdays in Swansea, Middleborough, and Westport. If we missed any, let us know by commenting below and we’ll get ’em up there! (Check out Coastal Foodshed to see how they’re making eating local easy by offering home delivery, and more!)

8. Light & Art

Good news: the New Bedford Art Museum is open again. They are partnering with DATMA’s summer programing Light: 2020 to present  Pastoral Light is in conjunction with DATMA’s summer programming and features 19th century landscapes from the New Bedford Library’s collection.  Through December 31. See more here. Note: You must purchase timed tickets to attend the exhibit right here.

Keep up with things to do on the South Coast by signing up for our free monthly email newsletter right here.

Want more stories and photography? Subscribe to our quarterly print magazine right here. The next issue hits mailboxes mid-late September!

Thanks to our wonderful sponsor Anne Whiting Real Estate who has been serving the community for over two decades!

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8 Great Things: August on the South Coast

We’re deep in summer, folks! Sitting at the beach, eating Twizzlers and wondering what to do this month. We know your usual go-to August traditions may be cancelled so we’re stepping in to give you some great alternatives. To paraphrase The Isley Brothers: if you can’t do the thing you love, love the thing you do.

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A Feast of Friends: The Allen’s Neck Clambake

Allen's Neck Clambake

In the early morning light, the clambake begins.

They toss kindling atop a concrete slab, then stack a layer of logs, followed by a layer of smooth river stones. Logs, stones, logs, stones, until the pyre is about five feet high.

By 9 am, the pyre is glowing an array of oranges and reds. Smoke billows. The smell permeates. The wood turns ashy gray; most of it burns away. A heap of stones is left blistering, glowing like lava.

Men — many wearing old firemen’s jackets, masks, helmets, hoods, and heavy work boots with soles burned smooth from years of participating in this event— grab pitchforks and rakes.

They lift away stones, literally on fire, with pitchforks. I hear the sound of rolling rocks, the click of stone on stone, tumbling down to the ground. (Once burnt, the rocks can never be used again. So fresh rocks, 1.5 tons, I’m told, are donated each year by farmers and contractors.)

“If anybody’s got a mask, go to the other side!”

“Rake it out!”

“Let’s drag that last log out!”

“Somebody get a rake on this!”

They rake until the concrete slab is bare. Then they run hoe-like flat-edges across the baking concrete to clear the ash.

“Go, go, go, go, go!”

Scorched rocks are piled back on the concrete slab. The men dump some two tons of rockweed, gathered by the Friends at the same spot of the Westport River each year, from some 90 nylon grain bags onto the rock bed. It creates a thick fluffy mattress of seaweed.

I can smell it instantly — the intense tidal smell in my nose. The salt on fire.

Crates of clams are placed atop the bed of rockweed. As soon as they hit, I smell them cooking.

Then crates of fish, sausage, sweet potatoes, ears of corn, onions, and secret dressing in tin pans. Old canvas boat sails — which strikes me as particularly symbolic in this old Yankee fishing town of South Dartmouth — are heaved atop the mountain of food.

The sails closest to the food are soaked in water. Steam billows.

At 12:55 p.m., Bakemaster Troy Vincent tests the first clam, a searing hot bit of meat. He gives the OK.

The sails are lifted. Men use pitchforks to heave off rockweed. Men and women descend upon the pile to begin serving.

The Allen’s Neck Friends Meeting Annual Clambake, is celebrating its 130th year.

I know instantly that I am watching something special, something ritualistic, ancient.

* * *

Stan Stopka, a white-haired man with glasses, has been helping out at the clambake for a quarter century, doing “a little bit of everything.”

“I like the fact that I get to see friends I might only see once a year,” the Dartmouth resident tells me while pulling off the blackened overalls he used to break the fire to reveal khakis underneath.

“It’s my favorite day of the year. There are lots of people here I see only once a year,” Mike Harrison tells me, pitchfork in hand, standing by the fire remains with his kids, Levi and Piper.

“We’ve been bringing the kids since they were in carriers. I’ve been coming since I was a little kid. I love it,” says the Dartmouth resident. “It reminds me of my relatives who are no longer with me. It’s about the continuity, the learning passed down, generation to generation.”

His mother, Polly Harrison, 72, tells me she’s been attending the clambake for 70 years.

“I’m sure I got pushed here in a carriage,” she says with a laugh. “I love the camaraderie, the families that come here year after year over long distances.”

She arrives at the clambake with pies. They need at least 90, which come from various members of the Meeting. Nowadays, some pies might come from bakeries, but in the old days they were all hand-made, as was the brown bread, a staple of the clambake, though many “people nowadays think comes in cans,” as a few of the older women told me.

Lindelle O’Keefe, 75, of Dartmouth starts making the “secret dressing” three days before the bake. The recipe has been handed down through generations. I ask her if she can tell me what’s in it.

“Absolutely not,” she answers.

* * *

Peter Crysdale is the minister at the Allen’s Neck Meetinghouse. As Quakers don’t use titles, he’s known simply as Peter.

He tells me that this parcel of land — a grove at the corner of Allen’s Neck and Horseneck roads in South Dartmouth, with no exact GPS address — is used only one day a year: for this clambake.

He stands up on a picnic table to say a prayer, and some 625 people go silent.

Long rows of picnic tables — each row seats 88 or so — are numbered, and servers are assigned to each table. The head server oversees everything, and some have binders containing notes from years past, names of regulars, some dating back generations.

Kids deemed old enough to help out are “table runners,” running plates of food to the appropriate table, swiftly.

When the main course is done, runners quickly collect plates and “pie runners” — kids with what look like milk crates of pies strapped around their neck, like something out of the 1920s — walk the rows with pie slices, sitting on paper plates: blueberry, pumpkin, lemon meringue, key lime, chocolate.

“We’re like a well-oiled machine,” says Sarah Gifford Smith, who tells me she has been coming here since she was “a newborn.” Table 6 has been in her family for generations; the women in her family have been its head servers dating back to when the clambake started, she tells me.

In all, I’m told there are some 25 bushels of clams, a bushel of quahogs, 180 pounds of fish, 230 pounds of sausage, 75 dozen ears of corn, four bushels of sweet potatoes, 150 pounds of onions, 50 pounds of butter, some 90 pies, brown breads, 24 watermelons, and plenty of coffee, ice, water, jams, cream.

Dawn Tripp, of Westport, leads the First Day School at Allen’s Neck Friends Meeting. She motions to her 15-year- old son Jack, who worked as a runner: “He used to be one of the little boys running around, just playing. This year, he worked as a runner. When he’s older, he’ll shed the flip flops for work boots and be part of the laying of the stones, preparing the bake,” she says.

Kathy Neustadt, of Danbury, N.H., was a grad student studying folklore at the University of Pennsylvania in 1986 when she visited her aunt in Westport and attended her first Friends of Allen’s Neck Meeting Clambake.

“The experience blew me away. It’s a farmers’ ballet,” she tells me. “I said, ‘This is what I’m studying. I can do my dissertation on this.’”

And she did so in 1988, then expanded it into a university- press book in 1992, “Clambake: A History and Celebration of an American Tradition,” which she sold at the clambake for years afterward. Although this year, the copies are conspicuously absent.

“We come down just for this. We can’t miss it,” she tells me. “People here, when they take a new job, they write ‘Third Thursday in August’ as a day off… It’s so magical.”

Story by Lauren Daley. Photographs by Alexandria Mauck.

A version of this article appeared in our Summer 2017 print issue. Want to support stories likes this one by Lauren Daley and see more of Ali Mauck’s photographs in all their glory?

Subscribe to the magazine and it will arrive in your mailbox with stories and photographs reflecting back the beauty and character of the South Coast! Subscribe right here for $19.99 a year.

 

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8 Great Things: July on the South Coast

July, it’s nice to see you again! We’re starting to see calendars become useful again as activity starts to hum around the South Coast. We’ve got some great things to do outdoors or from the comfort of home on our 8 Great Things list this month. Stay healthy, stay safe, and enjoy the pleasures of summer this month.

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8 Great Things, June on the South Coast

Like clockwork, we like to get our 8 Great Things list out by the first of every month. But having watched the events of the last several weeks unfold, our monthly list seems unimportant. And for that reason, it’s June 3 and we’ve held back on releasing it. We’ve been thinking about how a publication that, by its very mission, is focused on the feel-good aspects of a region addresses the righteous anger and complexities arising out of the last weeks.

Let’s just put it right out there: we don’t know. But we’re talking about it. And we’re listening. If you have any ideas, please reach out in the comments or to [email protected]

In the meantime, here’s the list for you, in time to register for the first event on June 4.

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8 Great Distractions: Go Virtual, South Coast Style!

You know how you make the best of what you have in the cupboard these days? In that same vein, we’re doing the best we can with our regular 8 Great Things monthly blog. Usually, we tell you about great happenings on the South Coast in the month ahead but we’ve had to re-tool it for these social distancing times. In April, we gave you 8 Great Walks (which we encourage you to use again this month). For May, we are giving you 8 Great Distractions which features virtual events that you can enjoy from the comfort of home. So for May, entertain yourself with local music, art and culture without even paying a cover charge (or brushing your hair).

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South Coast Food, Direct from the Source

There have been reports of fields of onions buried in Idaho; milk dumped in Wisconsin and Ohio. An irony during this pandemic is that while shoppers have faced supermarket shortages, some farmers and fishermen are inundated with too much food because their normal chain is off as purchasing by restaurants, schools and hotels has cratered.

Photo: Jim Mahaney

Shopping Moves Directly to the Piers and Farms

Ironically, Troy Durr has never eaten a lobster in his life (he hates seafood). But his uncle and plenty of his friends are lobstermen. When he saw them struggling with this supply/demand dichotomy, the 25 year old Mattapoisett resident decided to do something about it. He let people know via Facebook that a lobster boat had lobsters that couldn’t be sold. Friends and neighbors came down to the pier and the lobsters sold out.

Troy created a Facebook group called SouthCoast Direct Source Seafood which is spreading exponentially (so good to hear about exponential growth not involving a virus).  Fishermen hauling in fish, lobster and shellfish alert him when the boats are coming in. He lets the public know through the Facebook page.

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8 Great Walks: April on the South Coast

We had to retool our regular 8 Great Things blog this month while we all work at social distancing. You know what we realized? We’ve still got outdoor walks (as long as you keep your distance from others) and, frankly, walks have been keeping us sane. So this month we’ve rebranded the monthly column to 8 Great Walks. Having an abundance of beautiful landscapes on the South Coast is a blessing. And like that box of Girl Scout cookies that you unexpectedly found in the back of your cabinet, a good walk can really make your day.

White Eagle Parcel

You drive down a bumpy lane in Marion to get to Sippican Land Trust’s White Eagle Parcel where you’ll see cranberry bogs, an abandoned hearth and hear frogs making their distinct chirpy mating calls. Off Parlowtown Road, Marion. More here. 

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UPDATED: Staying Connected During Coronavirus: South Coast Style

Across the United States, we’re seeing communities form and share in creative and unusual ways in the midst of the Coronavirus response — singing from balconies in Italy, delivering pitchers of margaritas (with a roll of toilet paper) in Brooklyn, and playing accordions from shop doorways. The same is happening across the South Coast. We’re gathering together a list to help everyone stay connected locally.

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