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In This Place
A Cape Cod Notebook can be heard every Tuesday morning at 8:45am and afternoon at 5:45pm.It's commentary on the unique people, wildlife, and environment of our coastal region.A Cape Cod Notebook commentators include:Robert Finch, a nature writer living in Wellfleet who created, 'A Cape Cod Notebook.' It won the 2006 New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.

Wellfleet Marks the End of its Birthday Year with Massive Bonfire

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I didn’t go to Boston on Saturday for the Red Sox celebratory parade, but Wellfleet had its own celebration that evening, not for the baseball team, but for itself. On Mayo Beach, the town held a community bonfire to mark the official end of the year-long celebration of its 250th anniversary. My expectations for it were low. A nice gesture, I thought. I envisioned something on the order of a large beach fire. Instead, it exceeded all my expectations. It was a thing of beauty, power and glory.

In the beach parking lot the police, fire and highway departments had constructed a massive ziggurat-like structure of 500 wooden pallets, at least twenty feet tall. On top of the structure was a large plywood 250th birthday cake, and at the highest point was an oversized outhouse, made for the event, complete with a cut-out crescent in the door.

At 6 p.m. the crowd sang Fred Magee’s “Wellfleet Song” – which is rapidly becoming the town’s unofficial anthem – and the bonfire was lit. At first a cloud of dense black smoke gradually uncurled, but then the main structure caught and the conflagration became a brilliant, stunning river of flame, sending up great sheets of orange, yellow, green and purple flames into the night. Those of us who had crowded up close to the blaze were forced back across the street as the fire grew, lighting up thousands of faces and wondering eyes. Then the cake and outhouse caught fire, the large “250” numeral glowed as if electrified, and then both were immolated, like sacrifices, in the engulfing inferno. So well-constructed was the structure that, at the climax, it didn’t collapse, but just seemed to settle gently, like a huge silken tent, into itself. What was left was an enormous mound of glowing timber that warmed our backs as we walked back to the car.

View photos of the blaze at the website wellfleet250.org

This is an edited excerpt from this week's Cape Cod Notebook. Listen to the entire essay in the audio above.