ROCKLAND, Maine — Hundreds of Maine veterans, and maybe more, are likely to hear cheers on Saturday, as they lead the way in Rockland’s Lobster Festival parade.

The festival organizers decided this year to invite all veterans to be the grand marshals of the parade, and the word from the local American Legion is that a lot of people plan to accept the invitation. 

Parade chairman Jen Chapman says the veterans will march and ride in the front of the parade behind the color guards. The other floats, bands, and even King Neptune and the Sea Goddess, will fill in the rest of the parade.

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The annual festival is providing fun and food to crowds of visitors this week for its 72nd year, and all the work of the event is done by volunteers. 1,300 volunteers in all, says volunteer director Nancy Jeffers. They cook and carry the lobsters, shuck the corn, do the serving and selling and then the clean-up -- and many other tasks.

"We love what we do and love giving back to the community," said Michelle Hannan, a director of the Festival who said she has been involved for 25 years.

Hannan and other longtime volunteers say it's fun, and provides an important chance to give back and help the community. That includes King Neptune himself. Brian Messing, who portrays the King of the Deep for the festival, says it’s the big reason so many volunteers come back each yer.

"We’re all volunteers," he says. "The money that we raise that doesn’t go to next year’s festival all goes back to the community, and I think it’s that sense of helping -- gets us all motivated."

The festival makes significant local donations each year, ranging from the city and schools to other local causes and charities.

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The lure of lobster, of course, is also a factor, and organizers say there are a number of people who come from out of state each year to volunteer and be part of the festival. One of those is Lita Goldenson from New Jersey, who says going to the Lobster Festival is one of her "bucket list" items. She was working the serving line in the main good tent on Friday.

"I’ve met wonderful people from around the world," she said. "It's wonderful -- they are so friendly."