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Maine Lobster Festival Looks for the "Knowledgeable and Passionate"

In April, the board of directors of the Maine Lobster Festival, held each August in Rockland, announced a major change to the 76-year-old annual event. Instead of crowning a Sea Goddess on the first evening of the Festival, a Maine Lobster Festival Delegate will be chosen instead. Young women and men between the ages of 16 and 22 knowledgeable and passionate about the Maine lobster industry are eligible to apply.

For more than seven decades, young women from local towns took part in the annual Sea Goddess contest. They sought sponsors from the many businesses connected to the lobster industry. The young woman chosen Sea Goddess received a cash award and represented the Festival and the fishery at numerous public events throughout Maine and New England in the following year.

Still celebrating all things lobster after 76 years. MLF photo.

“Participation had been down prior to COVID,” explained Celia Knight, president of the Festival’s board of directors. “We visited high schools throughout the area to have in-depth conversations with students and sent out a survey asking them what they wanted to see in the contest. We heard that they wanted someone who knows and cares about the lobster industry and our community, regardless of gender.”

That message fit neatly with the Festival’s original goal when it began in 1947. Camden and Rockport businesspeople recognized that soft-shell lobsters, which were the bulk of the local catch in mid-summer, were delicious but difficult to ship at a time when refrigerated trucks were not common. They decided that if they couldn’t get the lobsters to consumers, they would bring the consumers to the lobsters. The very first Festival was held in Camden where 10,000 hungry people devoured nearly 12,000 pounds of lobster at open-air tables set up at Camden High School. The next year, the Festival moved to Rockland where over the decades it grew in size and scope.

“The Sea Goddess contest was never a beauty pageant,” Knight continued. “It was always about who was the best representative of the Festival and the fishery.” The new contest for Maine Lobster Festival Delegate requires contestants to participate in events linked to the industry, including local volunteering and service, attending public speaking and social media workshops, and helping to set up before the Festival opens.

“The Festival is about the lobster industry succeeding and being successful. We want the smartest person and carry that message at public events. I don’t care if they are pink or purple!” Knight added. In response to the change, the number of candidates for the contest has more than doubled compared to past years. The winner will receive a cash prize of $2,000, the runner-up will receive $1,000.

This year, the Maine Lobster Festival will be accepting donations for the Maine Lobstermen’s Association Save Maine Lobstermen campaign, which supports the Association’s work to combat extreme actions by the federal government to protect right whales.

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