The Humble Beginnings of the Maine Lobster Festival
Seventy years ago – in March, 1947 – a group of townspeople and summer visitors in the Camden-Rockport area got to talking about old times. The traumatic Second World War was over, and a number of citizens felt the need to bring some fun back into their lives with a new summer event – hopefully, one that would become an annual tradition.
Looking locally for inspiration, they recognized the community’s long, strong heritage of lobster fishing. They also noted that lobster landings were on the rise and, no doubt, there were at least a few lobster-lovers among them. Thus, they formed plans for an event that they would call the Camden-Rockport Lobster Festival.
On August 14, 1947, the event was announced on the front page of the Camden Herald, where the headline read, "All the lobster you can eat for $1."
That no doubt thrilled the locals, summer people, and tourists, but even back in 1947, it was an unrealistically low price. The festival’s financial loss that year caused the First Annual Camden-Rockport Lobster Festival to be the only Camden-Rockport Lobster Festival. There would never be another event under the same name.
The next year, however, the Rockland Junior Chamber of Commerce decided to revive the event in Rockland as a club project. They renamed it the Maine Lobster and Seafoods Festival and extended the format to two days. On a Saturday in July, Rockland’s Public Landing was transformed into a street party. Local lobstermen and dealers served hot lobster dinners. There was a parade, a concert by the Rockland City Band, and a coronation ball, with the crowning of Ruth Roberts of Rockland as the first "Miss Maine Seafoods.”
This time, the event was a wild success, and the following year it was extended again, to three days. It would be renamed, once again, as the Maine Lobster Festival, and Miss Maine Seafoods became the Sea Goddess.
Since then, the Maine Lobster Festival has become Rockland’s premier summer event – a three-day feast and party looked forward to by the Midcoast community and thousands of visitors from around the country and, indeed, around the world. Along with an abundance of the world’s best lobster and the Sea Princesses – one of whom is elected the Sea Goddess – the event includes carnival rides, exhibits, games, visiting ships, Neptune and his Court of the Sea, and a grand parade.
Who knew that a little community street party celebrating a lowly crustacean would grow to garner national publicity and be selected as one of the "Top 100 Events in North America” by the American Business Association? That’s what happens when citizens of a small town come together to dream big.