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After two missing summers, Maine Lobster Festival is back

The return after COVID is cause for celebration, but this year also marks the 75th anniversary of the very popular summertime event.

ROCKLAND, Maine — For the first time since 2019, the Maine Lobster Festival is back.

Lee and Denise, a pair of 75-year-olds from Pennsylvania, sat at a table piled with the wreckage of several lobster dinners. They sounded satisfied.

“We came to Maine last year and just loved it, the people, the scenery, and we planned our trip around this event,” Lee said.

The event is the Maine Lobster Festival, back this year after having no festival since 2019 because of the COVID pandemic.

That alone is cause for celebration, but this year also marks the 75th anniversary of the very popular summertime celebration of sea, seafood, and hometown Maine.

Credit: NCM

The 2022 festival opened officially at noon on Wednesday with the traditional arrival of King Neptune and his court.

Always a crowd favorite, visitors and locals crowded the city dock to get photos of the entourage arriving via a Coast Guard boat, then parading to raise the festival flag.

Tradition has a lot to do with the festival, which for many people in the Rockland area has been a high point of summer for generations.

“It's what people look forward to every year,” Thomaston resident Chris Rector, volunteering at the welcome gate, said. “It's not August without the Lobster Festival.”

Volunteering at the festival has also been a way of life for many families.  And while organizers say the volunteer numbers are down significantly this year, they still appeared to have dedicated teams cooking, hauling, and serving lobster dinners in the big tent beside the harbor.

“Oh, it feels great,” Vern Mossman, leader of the lobster cooking crew, said.

Shannon Kinney, also a board member who leads the marketing effort, agreed.

“It feels so good to be back. It was so hard for all of us not having a festival for two years because we really live for these moments. We see people from all over the world get joy in our community. So very exciting for us to be back,” Kinney said.

People from near and far were packing the festival grounds early. A Rockland police officer stationed at the entrance gate on Main Street said the line for lobster extended all the way from the waterfront tent to Main Street before the festival began serving. The lawman said he had never seen the line so long.

Among those in line were Mike and Diane, first-time festival goers from Charleston, South Carolina.

“I’ve been looking at this for years,” he said. “We used to live in Newburyport, Mass., and said, 'Someday I gotta get up there. And this is the day.'”

The two were part way through their meals, though each still had an unopened lobster on their plate.

“I had the clam chowder, now some clams. And I can’t wait for the lobster,” Mike's wife said. “Because it's my favorite.”

Credit: NCM

Lobster cook Vern Mossman predicted they would sell more lobsters than in previous years, partly because of so much pent-up interest and partly because this 75th year features free admission.

The festival runs through Sunday. Traditional events continue with the crowning of the Maine Sea Goddess, musical performances at night, the lobster crate race, and the big Lobster Festival Parade on Saturday, always a popular event for local people.

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