ROCKLAND, Maine — The visitors came early to consume lobsters while the locals filled Harbor Park on Wednesday night to watch the crowning of the 2012 Sea Goddess during the 65th annual Maine Lobster Festival.
Alexandra Dienesch-Calamari of Owls Head was crowned this year’s Sea Goddess. She will represent the lobster industry at events during the next 12 months. Emma Mason of Owls Head was named Crown Princess and Rachel Lynne Freeman was selected by pageant participants as Miss Congeniality.
Dienesch-Calamari is a 2012 graduate of Oceanside High School East and is the daughter of George Calamari and Karen Dienesch-Calamari.
The weather worked in the festival’s favor with the sun coming out late in the morning and the skies staying fair throughout the afternoon and evening.
Many of the first people in line Wednesday morning were from distant locales.
The Twidell family of Missouri had never held a live lobster until Wednesday morning. Family members took turns holding one of the thousands of lobsters that will be cooked during the next five days at the festival.
Mother Kathy Twidell of Lodi, Mo., said she heard about the festival from one of the patients at the dental office where she works as a hygienist.
“One of my patients came in with photographs they took when they went. We decided this would be a wonderful trip,” she said about the family’s first visit to the festival.
She said her husband, Forrest Twidell, loves to eat lobsters, but this was the first time the family got to see them live before they went into the cooker.
And the estimated 65 volunteer cooks who will be working from Wednesday until Sunday afternoon are ready for the onslaught of residents and tourists who want to taste Maine’s premier seafood product. Peter Smith, who has helped cook lobsters at the festival for about 25 years, said members of the Coast Guard stationed in Rockland and on visiting Coast Guard vessels make up about half the volunteer cooks this year.
The eight cookers are fueled by propane with each capable of steaming 80 pounds of lobsters at a time. The festival’s self-proclaimed World’s Largest Lobster Cooker can steam a lobster ready for the food tent in 13 minutes.
Festival-goers already were lined up at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, a half hour before the official start of this year’s annual summer event.
Tim Carroll, president of the festival board, said the directors agreed Tuesday night to lower the price of the lobster dinners to reflect the significant drop in prices being paid to lobstermen across the Maine coast.
A single lobster dinner will cost $12 this year compared with $14 last year. The double lobster dinner will be $19, down from $24 last year. And the triple lobster dinner will cost $29, down from $35 last year.
William and Janet Boyd of Redlion, Pa., were among the first customers in line for lobster dinners on Wednesday.
They have been to five of the past six festivals. When asked why they come, both said that lobsters were the attraction.
William Boyd said he has been eating lobsters faithfully since he was 8 years old.
Janet Boyd said her husband got her into eating lobsters.
“He introduced me to lobsters 47 years ago when we were dating,” she said.
The food tent will use half a ton of butter during the festival, said food tent volunteer Buddy Carleton.
As the festival opened Wednesday, the 18 young women who were vying for the title of 2012 Maine Sea Goddess were rehearsing on the main stage at Harbor Park.
Pageant coordinator Sharon Lombardo said a considerable amount of effort goes into putting on the pageant. Lombardo has been a director for 26 years, has helped prepare the young women for 16 years and been the coordinator of the pageant for five years.
Dr. Eric Hebert was emcee of the coronation celebration Wednesday night.
Each pageant princess was escorted by a crew member from the USS San Antonio as well as the Coast Guard, which arrived Wednesday morning in Rockland Harbor.
Cpl. Charles Shoenfelt was one of the escorts. The corporal from Canton, Ohio, said this was his first visit to Maine.
“We just arrived this morning. You have a beautiful shoreline,” he said.