Saturday, June 29, 2013

Vacationing In Provincetown: Culture, Entertainment & Community (Part 4)

What is the essence of Provincetown?

This year, Fodor's placed Provincetown on its list of the 10 Best Small Towns in America while
the Smithsonian listed it as #10 of their Best Small Towns To Visit. Provincetown is garnering much deserved praise. I have previously discussed some of the reasons why I find Provincetown compelling and am back to provide even more reasons.

On our media trip, one of our first meetings was at the Provincetown Town Hall, where we learned a bit about the history of Provincetown, as well as about some of its sights, attractions, cultural aspects, and more. The town hall, which has the largest auditorium in the town, used to be located near the Pilgrim Monument, however, in 1877, the building was hit by lightning and burnt to the ground. In 1886, the new town hall, at its current location, was dedicated and has underwent some recent renovations.

Val Marmillion, a resident of Provincetown and the President of Marmillion + Co., a public relations firm, provided an intriguing overview of Provincetown. Obviously, as he works in public relations, you have to carefully consider his words, to separate the truth from the hype. After dealing with many PR people over the years, I have attained a good level of discernment as to what they tell me. With Val, I spent some time outside of this meeting talking with him, and it was clear that his passion for Provincetown is true. He seemed very honest and forthright, so I felt that much of what he said was authentic.

Val stated that Provincetown is a place where diversity is celebrated and promoted, that it is a town where it is not about how much you own, but it is about what you enjoy. It is a "created village" that is not hamstrung by "can't do." It is a progressive, liberal town that values freedom of expression and offers no apologies for its positions. Curiosity is important and each day is unpredictable. The showing of emotion is accepted and not suppressed. It is quaint, a town of pets and bicycles, of art and theater, of eco-tourism and a strong GLBT community.

Brian Carlson, manager at the department of Health & Environmental Affairs, discussed eco-tourism and poetically stated that Provincetown was "a floating sandbar in the middle of the ocean." The town sits on a sand bar, which is about 5000 years old, and has 21 miles of coastal shore line to explore. In the dune region, there are twenty dunes which are at least 100 feet in height. There are also 9 state recognized freshwater ponds, though Provincetown gets its fresh water from Truro. There is plenty of wildlife in the Provincetown region, a great place for birdwatchers. Go swimming, sit on the beach, hike through the dines, go bird watching, rent a kayak. If you want a more active, outdoor vacation, then you can consider Provincetown. Brian also mentioned that the largest environmental problem facing the town is handling waste water, trying to prevent it from flowing into the ocean, but that they are doing a very good job of handling this issue.

In addition, we met Doug Johnstone, the Town Clerk, who discussed the issue of same sex marriage. As Doug teared up while discussing this issue, it was clear how important it was to him, how proud he was of Massachusetts for leading the way on this matter of equality. With the recent Supreme Court decision on DOMA, this can be expected to become even more important. Back in 2003, there were only about 20 weddings held in Provincetown. In 2004, after Massachusetts legalized same sex marriage, there were 900 weddings held in Provincetown, more than any other Massachusetts community. Currently, about 350-400 marriages are conducted there each year, a significant economic boom to the town. People come from all over the country to come here to be married.



Afterwards, we explored some history by a visit to the Pilgrim Monument and Museum where our tour was conducted by John McDonagh, the Pilgrim Monument Executive Director. Construction of the monument, to honor the Pilgrims’ landing in Provincetown, began in 1907 and President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone. It was completed in 1910, and was dedicated by President William Howard Taft. The monument is 252 feet and 7.5 inches tall and is one of the first sights you see as you approach Provincetown by the ferry. Through 116 steps and 60 ramps, you can walk to the top of the monument for a great view.





The museum, located a short distance from the monument, is medium-sized and fascinating, with exhibits on the Pilgrims, Provincetown history, the fishing industry, theater, Arctic animals, Inuit items, Native American artifacts, and much more.

This is the town’s first fire engine, built in the 1830s by an apprentice of Paul Revere. There is also a small gift store at the museum where you can purchase souvenirs or books about Provincetown. I picked up a cool history of Provincetown, as well as an intriguing book about the origins of Cape Cod names.

We had an opportunity to take to the seas, as part of a Whale Watch excursion on one of the Dolphin Fleet boats. This company originated whale watching on East Coast and they run excursions, three to four hours in length, from April through October, from three to twelve trips per day. The basic cost for an Adult ticket is $44 and Children's tickets, aged 5-12, cost $29. Aboard, there is a galley where you can get food and drink.

A naturalist accompanies each trip and gives a lesson on whales and other sea creatures while the ship tours around seeking whales.


I enjoyed being on the boat, traveling the sea, though we saw few whales, probably only two. It is always an unknown when you board the boat whether you will see many whales or not. They are wild animals, not tame creatures in a pen. However, it is such a fascinating moment when you first see a plume of spray, noting the presence of a whale, and then see its fins or tail break the surface of the sea. Such majestic creatures, sure to instill wonder.

For a more low-key experience, you can check out the Provincetown Theater to see a play, maybe something modern and avant garde, or something more of an American classic, like a play by Eugene O'Neill. Provincetown is one of the originators of the Modern American Theater, and the Provincetown Players, which started in 1915, was one of the "little theaters" that sprouted up during this time period. They performed Eugene O'Neill's first play, Bound East For Cardiff, and would give fame to others too, such as Tennessee Williams. You can even attend the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival or the Provincetown International Film Festival

Provincetown has long been a favorite spot for artists or all types. For example, a number of writers have lived or worked in Provincetown, including Norman Mailer, John Dos Passos, Harry Kemp, Stanley Kunitz, Michael Cunningham, Wendy Kesselman, Paula Vogel and John Guare. Some of them spent their time in the isolated dune shacks, gaining privacy and quiet so that they could work. During some of my free time, I was even able to do some writing on the next Tipsy Sensei novel.

To Be Continued...

1 comment:

Cloria Clark said...

No matter from where you are , whenever you want to make fun outside province town is the greatest place to spend time specially if you're on the provincetown ferry such a beautiful place to spend time. if you are in boston then you can also book tour for boston to provincetown ferry