Lobster festival opens with royal flourish

Posted July 29, 2009, at 10:35 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The newest Maine Sea Goddess works on the fishing vessel Gloucester Girl and lists lobstering among her hobbies — along with traveling, working out, reading and teaching.

Callie Lynn MacQueston of Vinalhaven, who was ceremoniously crowned Wednesday night at the 62nd annual Maine Lobster Festival amid pomp, circumstance and neighborly cheer, seems a perfect choice for the 2009 Sea Goddess. She’ll represent the festival and the Maine lobster industry for the next year.

Outgoing Sea Goddess Bryson Cowan of Thomaston said that it was an honor to wear the sparkly crown.

“This has been one of the greatest opportunities and experiences of my life,” she said at the ceremony. “I will treasure it forever.”

MacQueston stepped forward from the court of 18 Sea Princesses, each of whom sported long black dresses and elegant hairdos and were escorted by solemn Coast Guardsmen. Her smile gleamed almost as brightly as her new crown as she waved to the cheering crowd of hundreds.

Judges also selected runner-up Laura Catherine Plourde of Rockland as Crown Princess and Karis Sawyer of Tenants Harbor as Miss Congeniality.

The popular Sea Goddess event was part of a great opening day, said festival president Tammy Kolmosky.

“It’s a good opening day,” Kolmosky said. “The weather couldn’t be any better. Summer finally started.”

Although the opening day is free and there was no gate information available, she said, by midafternoon the crowds had already cracked, picked and devoured their way through more than 3,000 pounds of Maine’s favorite sea critter.

As festival volunteers emptied a batch of freshly cooked crustaceans from the “World’s Greatest Lobster Cooker” at Rockland’s Harbor Park, it was a Kodak moment for vacationing couple Lisa and Jim Costello of Niles, Ohio.

“Get the camera, honey,” Lisa Costello said.

As her husband complied, he extolled the virtues of Maine — and Rockland, America’s Lobster Capital.

“We said, we have to go to Rockland. We see it on the Food Channel, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel,” he said after he put down his camera. “And the Maine people are so friendly. Live lobsters are so expensive in Ohio. Maybe $30 at Red Lobster.”

Though their first-ever Lobster Festival was hard to get to — “It took forever,” Lisa Costello said — they agreed that it was well worthwhile.

Attendees strolling leisurely along the fairway that afternoon seemed to be enjoying themselves. Some watched the boats and sea gulls in the harbor, children clutched prize stuffed animals larger than they were, and adults applauded as local politicians and luminaries gave a tribute to the U.S. Coast Guard. But most people came for just one thing: the lobsters.

That’s what drew Lynette and Dave Dziedzic of Ann Arbor, Mich., who came to Rockland on a cross-country motorcycle tour.

“We came because I wanted to eat lobster,” Lynette Dziedzic said. “And the lobster is wonderful. It was very worth it. I love lobster.”

Yong Jae and Charlie Song of Palisades Park, N.J., took a photo of Jae brandishing a live, if sluggish, lobster. The duo said that they came north for the festival, but that they had an ulterior purpose in mind, too.

“We want to preach about Jesus,” Song said, handing a reporter a tract from the Gate of Heaven Church. “We’re having some success.”

Alex and Mike Bavosi of Rutland, Mass., said that their two kids were keeping busy — and having a blast.

“It’s fun down here,” Mike Bavosi said.

Their daughter Talia, 8, said that her favorite thing about the festival was simple.

“Eating the lobsters,” she said, grinning.

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