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Festival season in Maine starts in late June and continues into the fall, with towns and organizations across the state celebrating their heritage, both agricultural and historical, with days of community fun. For many decades, part of that fun came in the form of a pageant, naming a queen, princess or goddess of the fair from teenage girls and young women residing in those communities.
Potato Blossom Queens, Broiler Queens and many others were crowned at festivals statewide each year, though the tradition has waned in recent years — only the Sea Goddess at the Maine Lobster Festival and the Dairy Princess at the Clinton Lions Agricultural Fair remain. There’s valid criticism to be made that such pageants uphold sexist ideals of beauty and innocence, though in many cases, winners were judged on academic, athletic and artistic achievement as much as they were their physical appearance.
The Bangor Daily News for decades ran stories on the winners of most of those titles, and we’ve gone back through our archive to find photos and articles to find some of the most amusing and, in some cases, old-fashioned examples of Maine pageant winners.
While many of these fairs and festivals are canceled for 2021 — many organizers had to make a call about whether to hold them before the state announced in mid-May that most pandemic-related restrictions would be lifted on May 24 — many others are still happening. Do you know a former Maine princess, queen or goddess? Let us know in the comments.
Maine Lobster Festival Sea Goddess, Rockland
The Maine Lobster Festival isn’t happening this year due to the timing of the pandemic reopening announcement, which gives us all the more reason to look back at sea goddesses past. More than 70 sea goddesses have been crowned in all those years, with the pageant first starting in 1948.
Clinton Lions Agricultural Fair Dairy Princess, Clinton
The Clinton Lions Agricultural Fair in the Kennebec County town of Clinton is happening, however, and is set for Sept. 9-12 at the Clinton Fairgrounds. Organizers will once again crown a Dairy Princess, as they have done for decades. In 1959, Betty Ann Hamlin of Turner was crowned the princess, and among her royal duties was kicking off a race featuring wild animals from a touring carnival — specifically, ostriches ridden by local chiefs of police. Yes, you read that correctly: police officers reading ostriches. It was a very, very different time.
Broiler Festival Broiler Queen, Belfast
The Broiler Festival in Belfast, celebrating the town’s long history in the poultry processing industry, started as a one-day affair in 1948, and quickly blossomed into a full-fledged multi-day festival, complete with a highly popular chicken barbecue that reportedly served more than 11 tons of chicken to 14,000 people in 1957. In 1949, it began crowning a Poultry Queen, later called the Broiler Queen. In 1955, it was such a prestigious honor that Maine Gov. Edmund Muskie crowned the winner. In 1976, U.S. Sen. William Hathaway crowned her.
With the chicken industry in decline in Belfast, in the late 1980s the festival was renamed the Bay Festival, which held its last iteration in Belfast City Park in 2005.
Maine Potato Blossom Festival Potato Queen, Fort Fairfield
After a canceled 2020 festival, the Maine Potato Blossom Festival is back in action in Fort Fairfield, set for July 10-18 this year. For 84 years running, the festival has crowned a Potato Queen — the first queen, Valeska Ward Lombard of Limestone, was crowned in 1935.
For decades after that, countless young women held the title of Potato Queen, hailing from towns all over Aroostook County. The most recently named queen was Elizabeth Collins of Presque Isle. Sadly, the Potato Queen pageant will not be a part of this year’s festivities, bringing an end to an 84-year run.
Central Maine Egg Festival Egg Queen, Pittsfield
The town of Pittsfield’s annual Egg Festival, celebrating central Maine’s egg farmers, is traditionally held the fourth Saturday of July. As happened last year, organizers are unable to host the festival, which for many decades crowned an Egg Queen. As a 1989 BDN article stated, however, the pageant was far from a beauty contest — rather, it was a scholarship competition judged primarily on academic merit. It was last held in 2013.
Correction: A previous version of this report misidentified the current Maine Potato Queen.