BANGOR, Maine — To many, Maine and lobster are synonymous. But lobster and Thanksgiving?
A Bangor woman hopes to make it so through a promotion aimed at getting people to add the tasty crustacean to their holiday celebrations, beginning with Thanksgiving Day.
For Julia Munsey, it all began with recent news reports about Maine’s struggling lobster industry.
Munsey, 43, said her parents, Bill and Helen Munsey of Orono, called her in late October, a few weeks before her birthday, to find out what she would like to do to celebrate.
“I had seen all the news stories about the challenges facing the [Maine] lobster industry. I felt terrible about it,” said Munsey, who spent many a childhood summer digging clams and having lobster bakes at her grandparents’ retirement home in the coastal community of Lamoine.
“All of a sudden it just resonated,” Munsey said Wednesday.
“I said, ‘Let’s host a lobster dinner.’ I love lobster. So then I said, ‘Honestly, if everybody did it, it could really make a difference. We should give them a way to do it.’”
And a movement was born.
Munsey took the concept to a friend, Elizabeth Sutherland, who heads Sutherland Weston Marketing Communications of Bangor.
“They [Sutherland Weston] were actually the ones who came up with the idea” to partner with the Maine Lobster Promotion Council, line up sponsors, including Machias Savings Bank, and launch a Web site. The initiative has drawn support from Down East businesses and politicians from areas where low lobster prices have hit hardest.
The idea is to get people to think about having lobster, not only for Thanksgiving, but also for other celebrations.
“We want people to continue to think about serving it,” Munsey said.
“Ideally, I’d love to see a bump in lobster sales. The short-term gain would be getting people to buy lobster now to support the industry,” which she notes is feeling the double whammy of high fuel costs and low prices.
“If we continue to build the Maine lobster brand, it could have an even wider audience,” Munsey said.
How much Mainers can expect to pay for a lobster feast depends on where they buy it.
The market price in the Bangor area varied on Wednesday. McLaughlin’s Seafood in Bangor was selling lobsters that weigh 1 to 1¼ pounds for $4.89 a pound, with anything larger at $8.99 a pound. The rate was the same for soft or hard shell.
Cap Morrill’s in Brewer was charging $5.40 a pound for up to 1½ pounders and $7.43 a pound for 2 pounders and up. All the lobsters were firm shelled, according to a spokesman.
Shaw’s Supermarket on Main Street in Bangor was selling up to 1½ pounders for $5.69 a pound and 1½ to 2 pounders for $8.99 a pound.
Retail prices, however, are much higher than what lobstermen are getting. Representatives of the state’s lobster industry this week told the Bangor Daily News they were getting about $2.50 a pound, a price they haven’t seen since the early 1990s.
“Just from a personal standpoint, when you see people who work hard and have worked hard all their lives, it’s really frustrating,” Munsey said.
“I know that we live in a global world and a global market right now. That often makes us feel hopeless. But in a small state like Maine, [the Celebrate with Lobster campaign] brings it back to basics.”
For Maine lobster facts and information about where to buy lobster, how to prepare it, menu ideas and a chance to win a year’s worth of it, visit www.lobstercelebrations.com.
AP FILE PHOTO
With the lobster industry pinched by plunging prices, a Maine woman is suggesting that Americans skip the traditional turkey dinner and go with the signature Maine seafood for their Thanksgiving feast. “If you can’t completely give up tom turkey, make a lobster stew, lobster casserole, a lobster stuffing,” Julia Munsey of Bangor said Wednesday.