The last weekend in April, the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce usually hosts the annual Daffodil Festival – a weekend of events to celebrate springtime on Nantucket Island.
It all started nearly half a century ago. On May 2, 1975, the Nantucket Garden Club, encouraged by member Jean MacAusland, organized the first Nantucket Daffodil Show. Sanctioned by the American Daffodil Society, it was held in the Nantucket Boys’ & Girls’ Club, and included 250 entries under 9 classifications of blooms, and 3 Best in Show awards were given. The week of April 28 to May 4, 1975, was officially declared by the Nantucket Board of Selectmen as “Nantucket Daffodil Week.”
Three years later, in 1978, MacAusland, H. Flint & Corky Ranney, and Melva Chesrown added to the spring festivities by organizing an antique car parade followed by a community tailgate picnic in ‘Sconset. That first parade included 19 cars, including a 1920s Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.
In 1978, the Nantucket Garden Club started a project spearheaded by Jean MacAusland to plant one million daffodil bulbs around the island. They started with 30,000. In 1979, Jean MacAusland purchased 8 tons of daffodil bulbs, which were planted around the island that September. With additional plantings every year and the natural spread of daffodils, it’s estimated that there are about 2 million daffodils now blooming on Nantucket.
The annual Nantucket Daffodil Festival was moved from May to late April in 1980, and that year the weekend included a Chamber-sponsored window decorating contest. Car Parade organizers added a stop on Main Street for public viewing and photographs.
In 1983, 80 antique cars registered for the parade and 40 more crashed the party, making the parade that circled through town so long that first car was right behind the last. The following year, the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce, now in charge of Daffodil Festival activities except for the Nantucket Garden Club’s Daffodil Show, had to cap the number of antique cars in the parade.
Now, decades later (when there are no pandemic restrictions), the Daffodil Festival on Nantucket includes art shows, a pet show, tours, exhibitions, contests, lectures, and, of course, the Garden Club’s annual Nantucket Daffodil Flower Show. There are activities for all ages, and faithful festival-goers dress up for the occasion and participate enthusiastically. In addition to the Antique Car Parade, window decorating contest, and the famous ‘Sconset Tailgate Picnic, the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce organizes a Daffy Hat Contest, a Children’s Parade featuring decorated bikes, strollers, wagons, and other self-propelled vehicles, and a family picnic at Children’s Beach. The Pine Woods Morris Dancers perform throughout the day at various outdoor locations.
Last year (2021) Nantucket Daffodil Festival was not in-person event due to pandemic restrictions. But for 2022 the in-person fun is back better than ever! The Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce is planning these events for Saturday, April 23:
- Daffy Hat Pageant
- Children’s Beach Bike Parade
- Antique Car Parade on Main Street, Nantucket
- Tailgate Picnic in Siasconset
- NiSHA Daffy Dog Parade
- Daffodil Festival Bazaar
- Family Events at Children’s Beach
And, of course, at 2pm on Saturday, April 23 the Nantucket Garden Club’s fabulous 46th Annual Daffodil Show opens to the public at Bartlett’s Farm. This show — a display of thousands of daffodils – has a theme of “Island Treasures. The Daffodil Show continues on Saturday until 5pm and is open on Sunday, April 24 from 10 am to 4 pm.