ROCKLAND, Maine — The grounds of the Maine Lobster Festival were crowded early Wednesday afternoon as the 67th annual summer event kicked off on the city’s waterfront.
Chuck Kruger, president of the festival board, said organizers are optimistic about turnout for the festival. He said advanced bookings at local lodgings are strong, and the number of vendors and sponsorships are up.
Kruger said, as always, the star of the show is seafood and particularly lobster, which is so important to the local economy. Kruger, in his role as a state representative from the Thomaston area, pointed out that he sponsored the legislation that became law to put more money into marketing and promoting lobsters.
He said 15,000 to as many as 20,000 pounds of lobsters are expected to be sold during the festival, which continues through Sunday. The festival is purchasing the lobsters through Linda Bean.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had planned to have a plane fly over the first day of the festival with a banner proclaiming, “Keep Your Paws off Their Claws! Try Vegan.”
But a stubborn fog bank in Rockland Harbor was, at least temporarily, grounding that effort.
PETA announced late Wednesday that the flyover was rescheduled for 12:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
Kruger said he had no objections to the planned PETA flyover.
“We offer local, fresh and sustainable lobster, and we love to share it with people both near and far,” Kruger said.
PETA issued a news release Tuesday, urging people not to eat lobsters and made reference to its investigation of the way Bean’s processing plant in Rockland kills lobsters, which it maintains created horrific abuse for the crustaceans.
On a lighter note, the role of Blackbeard is being performed this year by Al Simmons, who succeeds legendary Blackbeard Brian Messing. Messing performed in the role for the past 12 festivals before retiring.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Messing said as he walked the grounds as a regular volunteer. “When I see cute little kids with Blackbeard, then it will hit me.”
Simmons said he lobbied for the Blackbeard role. He is part of Pirates of the Black Rose, which hires out pirates for parties, school programs and other events.