A guide for happier times

Save ‘Celebrating Cape Cod & the Islands: Traditions, Festivals, and Food’ for your next summer guests.


This new travel book, offered by Schiffer Publishing of Atglen, Pa., a company that’s been putting out fine guidebooks for years, is a tad bewildering. It makes you think that quite possibly we live in an alternate universe where — yippee! — no COVID happened (and, frankly, is still happening), and we’re free to enjoy all the delights of our own magical kingdom, as we’ve done before.

Seriously. If you simply go by the events laid out in this new volume, the Nantucket Daffodil Festival wasn’t canceled, as the old parallel universe wiped it clean off the schedule, and fun folks wearing yellow petal hats are on hand to greet celebrants right there on Main Street.

Our own Vineyard big dates, in the Schiffer Universe, have not been adulterated one bit: Our grand fireworks have not, in fact, been scrubbed (as we know they’ve been, alas!), and the other two main events, Illumination Night in the Campground, and the dynamic-as-heck Agricultural Fair will proceed with all — well, some — guns blazing. Author and photographer from Sandwich Kathryn Kleekamp has this to say, in the Schiffer tome, about the big night in the Campground: “When each house is adorned with glowing Japanese lanterns … the effect is mesmerizing.”

In actuality, in this still COVID-compromised summer of 2021, according to my primary source at the M.V. Chamber of Commerce, Nancy Gardella, fewer cottages will be decorated, and the lighting will take place at a far earlier 8 pm, the better to send all masked and socially distancing visitors to an early, wholesome bedtime. And per our normally dazzling Ag Fair, mandatory masks will be required for all guests, even in that outdoor setting. The usual wonderful assortment of rides will be in giddy operation, but online ticketing will count people in and out.

None of this deep dive into the darker aspects of our present summer is to disparage this new guidebook, with its gorgeous pictures and captivating narratives. I guess what this book reviewer is saying is the following: Buy it and keep it on hand for future seasons on our beloved Island and our cherished destinations across the Sound when all shall be well again. And it will be well. Will it not?

In a recent chat with Kleekamp, she revealed that the new release was put together during the innocent days of 2019, when she visited such sites as Provincetown’s big blast of an August carnival, featuring cruises, pool parties, costume balls, and drag shows, during which she snapped a shot of a fully gowned and white-feathered bride atop a white-sequined Jeep, the bride’s gender unknown. For our own exalted Ag Fair, Kleekamp grabbed an indoor shot of the reception hall where, beyond a sea of jam and honey jars and under hanging quilts galore, somehow a portrait of my long-deceased dad showed up. (I know, I don’t know how this happened). Another ghost from that same page: A reporter named Jack Shea is quoted as saying, “The Ag Fair, at its core, is an extension of everyday shared Island life.” Wow! I think I was married to that dude!

Maybe you should check out that photograph — page 95 — to see if any of your own ghosts show up.

In any event, this new offering is such a beautiful, breezy, and informational guide to this whole darn geography of ours that I advise purchasing a copy right now and saving it for when you and your summer visitors will want to take a trip to Hyannis for the Pops by the Sea Concert or the Eastham Turnip Festival. And speaking of turnips, and every other scrumptious edible in our neck of the woods, Kleekamp furnishes the book with such yummies as our own Helen Manning’s Wampanoag Cranberry Crisp, or Bourbon Caramel Popcorn, adapted from recipesworthrepeating.com, gleaned from the Woods Hole Film Festival.

When I see such a thorough guide as this one, I’m reminded of how little I’ve taken advantage of the amazing environs beyond our own shores. For example, in its 100th year, the annual Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow in July invites us to learn a whole heckuva lot more about our native neighbors with dancing, feasting, storytelling, and a hauling out of ceremonial jewelry and feathers. If you’re asking “Who are the Wampanoags?” Kleekamp tells us about the People of the First Light on page 58, with a recipe for Sweet Indian Corn Pudding the next page over. After that are some delightful chapters on hydrangeas, followed by a few chapters devoted to the Grecian Festival at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Centerville.

Let us take it as a cautionary tale that most of these festivals over the course of this summer and fall are either canceled outright or, like our own Illumination Night and Ag Fair, subject to masks and other restrictions.

But next year? Let us greet this exquisite guidebook as a sign that all shall be restored in full. It just might take patience and self-care before we may dial up the full Cape and Islands experience of pure wonder and joy.

I can’t wait! Can you?

“Celebrating Cape Cod & The Islands: Traditions, Festivals, and Food,” $24.99. Available at local bookstores and online. You can also visit kleekampfineart.com to order directly from the source.