Crowds roll in for the Maine Lobster Festival

Posted July 30, 2014, at 2:59 p.m.
Alison and Kevin Klucher of Maryland enjoy a menacing photo op with Blackbeard the Pirate, played by Al Simmons of Friendship, at the 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday. It's Simmons' first year in the role, though he shadowed the previous scurvy dog for two seasons.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Alison and Kevin Klucher of Maryland enjoy a menacing photo op with Blackbeard the Pirate, played by Al Simmons of Friendship, at the 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday. It's Simmons' first year in the role, though he shadowed the previous scurvy dog for two seasons. Buy Photo
Local lobster cooking legend Peter Smith leans over a basket of doomed crustaceans at the 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday. Smith has been serving up steamed lobster at the festival since 1972.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Local lobster cooking legend Peter Smith leans over a basket of doomed crustaceans at the 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday. Smith has been serving up steamed lobster at the festival since 1972. Buy Photo
Sean Dolan (left) and Steve Brochu unload a fresh batch of steamed lobsters while gawkers look on at the 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Sean Dolan (left) and Steve Brochu unload a fresh batch of steamed lobsters while gawkers look on at the 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday. Buy Photo
Sean Dolan updates the white board in front of the lobster cookers at the 67th annaul Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday. As of 2 p.m., on the first day of the five-day shindig, the team had cooked 1,440 pounds of lobster.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Sean Dolan updates the white board in front of the lobster cookers at the 67th annaul Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday. As of 2 p.m., on the first day of the five-day shindig, the team had cooked 1,440 pounds of lobster. Buy Photo
Scott Liner of Oklahoma wears a silly hat at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Scott Liner of Oklahoma wears a silly hat at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday. Buy Photo
King Neptune -- also known as Syd Leach -- oversees his kingdom at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
King Neptune -- also known as Syd Leach -- oversees his kingdom at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday. Buy Photo
Kevin Klucher of Maryland snaps a photo of a live lobster in Rockland on Wednesday at the 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Kevin Klucher of Maryland snaps a photo of a live lobster in Rockland on Wednesday at the 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival. Buy Photo
The 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland kicked off on Wednesday and runs through Sunday.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
The 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland kicked off on Wednesday and runs through Sunday. Buy Photo
Madison Lempke, 6, goes sky-high at the 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Madison Lempke, 6, goes sky-high at the 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday. Buy Photo
Blackbeard the Pirate tries to make friends with Julia Staples, 3, of Appleton on Wednesday at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland. Blackbeard is also known as Al Simmons of Friendship.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Blackbeard the Pirate tries to make friends with Julia Staples, 3, of Appleton on Wednesday at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland. Blackbeard is also known as Al Simmons of Friendship. Buy Photo
Lobsters are paired with rolls at the 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday before corn and other goodies are added to the trays.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Lobsters are paired with rolls at the 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on Wednesday before corn and other goodies are added to the trays. Buy Photo
A U.S. Coast Guard boat docks at the Rockland public landing to drop off the 2013 Maine Sea Goddess, King Neptune, Blackbeard, and their entourage, as the 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival kicked off in Rockland. The Festival runs through Sunday.
Stephen Betts | BDN
A U.S. Coast Guard boat docks at the Rockland public landing to drop off the 2013 Maine Sea Goddess, King Neptune, Blackbeard, and their entourage, as the 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival kicked off in Rockland. The Festival runs through Sunday. Buy Photo

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.

 

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