Lobster fest starts today in Rockland

Posted July 28, 2009, at 8:08 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — What do you get when you combine 75,000 people, 20,000 pounds of lobsters, a Sea Goddess and the world’s largest lobster cooker?

What else but the 62nd annual Maine Lobster Festival, of course. Organizers expect the festival, which starts today, will succeed in painting the town and steaming its lobsters as red as ever.

“We have a great time,” said Tammy Kolmosky, president of the Rockland Festival Corp., which promotes the annual event. “It’s a colorful and enjoyable event that builds community spirit and enhances the region’s economy.”

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Lobster lovers and others come from all over the U.S. and other countries to the volunteer-run festival, which Kolmosky estimated generates as much as $2 million annually for the area economy.

“It’s gained so much national and international recognition,” she said.

She said many of this year’s showcase activities — such as the crowning of the Sea Goddess from a court culled from local girls — are tried-and-true crowd pleasers which have been around for decades. Others, such as Sunday’s “Real Maine Man” pageant, are relatively new.

Last year, organizers had a “Real Maine Man” cooking contest, but they’ve upped the ante this summer. Cash prizes totaling $225 will be awarded to those who can prove their Mainely manliness after competing in categories such as Best Real Maine Man Outfit, Talent, and Feats of Strength and Endurance.

“It’s something we’re hoping will engage and entertain the crowd,” Kolmosky said.

Other entertainment options include up-and-coming country rocker Eric Church on Friday night, Celtic fiddler Natalie MacMaster on Saturday, and an acclaimed Rolling Stones tribute band Sunday.

There also will be a parade, an art show, Navy ship tours, and a lobster crate race, among many other activities planned over the five-day festival.

But the star of the show, Kolmosky emphasized, is everyone’s favorite sea creature.

“I think the highlight of the festival is the delectable Maine lobster,” she said.

One must-see is what organizers proudly refer to as the “World’s Greatest Lobster Cooker,” a behemoth that can cook 1,600 pounds of lobsters every 15 minutes at its peak capacity.

“It’s a show in itself,” Kolmosky said.

The Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest, held Friday, is also a popular draw.

The first day of the festival, Hometown Day, has no admission fee and features the coronation of the Sea Goddess.

“That’s a hometown favorite,” Kolmosky said.

Spectators also can plan to gasp and laugh at the chilly antics of participants in Sunday’s famous lobster crate race.

Racers run over a string of 50 lobster crates that are partially submerged in the harbor. Whoever runs the most crates before toppling into the Atlantic is the winner. A young Austrian won in recent years by crossing more than 2,000 crates, organizers said, but last year’s winner set a new all-time record of 4,501 crates crossed.

Putting on events like the crate race and others takes a lot of work from the festival’s army of 1,000 volunteers, Kolmosky said, but it’s well worth it.

“It’s a fun time with a lot of community involvement,” she said.

The Maine Lobster Festival will be held from today through Sunday, Aug 2, at Harbor Park in Rockland. For information, go to www.mainelobsterfestival.com.

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