Veterans and novices are shellbent for victory in lobster picking battle

Edward McGovern of Skowhegan (left), Sue Tyler of Glenburn and Al Morrill of Bangor participate in a Lobster Pickin' contest at Hollywood Slots in Bangor on Thursday, May 6, 2010. Tibbetts won the final round of the event which pitted nine contestants against each other for a free all-you-can-eat lobster buffet and $500 in free slot play. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)
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Edward McGovern of Skowhegan (left), Sue Tyler of Glenburn and Al Morrill of Bangor participate in a Lobster Pickin' contest at Hollywood Slots in Bangor on Thursday, May 6, 2010. Tibbetts won the final round of the event which pitted nine contestants against each other for a free all-you-can-eat lobster buffet and $500 in free slot play. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)
Posted May 09, 2010, at 6:12 p.m.
&quotIf it was a steer-roping contest, I'd have won," said Rodney Rose of Cheyenne, Wyo. after participating in a nine-person, Lobster Pickin' contest at Hollywood Slots in Bangor on Thursday, May 6, 2010. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)
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"If it was a steer-roping contest, I'd have won," said Rodney Rose of Cheyenne, Wyo. after participating in a nine-person, Lobster Pickin' contest at Hollywood Slots in Bangor on Thursday, May 6, 2010. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)
Steve Tibbetts of Jefferson (left) and Al Morrill of Bangor participate in the final round of a Lobster Pickin' contest at Hollywood Slots in Bangor on Thursday, May 6, 2010. Tibbetts won the event which pitted nine contestants against each other for a free all-you-can-eat lobster buffet and $500 in free slot play. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)
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Steve Tibbetts of Jefferson (left) and Al Morrill of Bangor participate in the final round of a Lobster Pickin' contest at Hollywood Slots in Bangor on Thursday, May 6, 2010. Tibbetts won the event which pitted nine contestants against each other for a free all-you-can-eat lobster buffet and $500 in free slot play. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)

Some attack, rip and tear with haphazard speed. Others methodically dissect, taking their time, like the tortoise against the hare. Still others just have the strategy down pat.

Steve Tibbetts of the Lincoln County town of Jefferson won the first-ever lobster picking contest held Thursday evening at Hollywood Slots, no doubt helped by a seemingly genetic predisposition toward the iconic Maine crustacean. In a promotional event designed to spread the news about the casino’s new $24.99 all-you-can-eat lobster buffet, offered every Friday in May and June, the contest pitted longtime lobster eaters against relative novices.

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“I’ve had a lot of experience. My grandfather lobstered for 30 years, so I have a family history kind of thing going on,” said Tibbetts, who was crowned the victor after the final round of picking. “He fished around Pemaquid. My whole family lobsters. So I guess I have an edge.”

Each competitor was tasked with picking three lobsters per round, in three rounds with three contestants each, with a total of 36 lobsters picked. The winner from each round advanced to a final round, pitting Tibbetts against fellow pickers Rodney Rose and Donna Bilodeau.

“I just moved here from Wyoming, so this is kind of new to me,” said Rose of Bangor. “If this was a cattle roping contest, I’d be way ahead. It was my first time picking a lobster.”

Bilodeau, of Standish, didn’t expect her Thursday evening at Hollywood Slots to end up with her covered in lobster juice and bits of meat, egged on by two Hollywood Slots employees dressed in lobster costumes. She nevertheless won the first round and advanced to the finals, despite the fact that she picked so vigorously she slightly injured her hand on the sharp edge of a shell.

“You don’t usually have to take apart a lobster under this kind of pressure,” she said. “I prefer it with butter, personally.”

Mike Camire, Hollywood Slots’ director of food and beverage, said the lobster buffet is offered on Fridays in May and June, but added it may continue into the summer if it is popular among patrons.

“We plan to order 1 ton of Maine lobster each week,” said Camire. “We want to do our part to support lobster fisherman, and buying it a ton at a time can definitely do that.”

The final round was very close competition, with Tibbetts, Rose and Bilodeau finishing within seconds of one another. Camire surveyed the completely picked 1¼-pound, hard-shell lobsters and crowned Tibbetts the lobster picking champ, awarding him $500 in slots play and a free lobster dinner.

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