The Maine Lobster Festival | Celebrating the Best of Summer in New England

Held each summer in Rockland, the Maine Lobster Festival just might be the ultimate crustacean celebration.

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“Summer in New England” is so much more than a description of time and place. It’s the answer to a winter’s worth of prayers for warm weather and seasonal indulgences. It’s a time to come together as friends, neighbors, and entire communities to reconnect, reminisce, and appreciate all the good things in life.  And when it comes to special events that capture the sights, sounds, smells, and spirit of summer in New England all in one place—nothing cracks The Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, Maine.

It wouldn't be a real Maine celebration without lobster boats.

It wouldn’t be a real Maine parade without lobster boats.

Brenda Darroch

Why? Let’s start with the name. With all due respect to the Maine Potato Blossom Festival, the Yarmouth Clam Festival and the Moxie Festival, this is the MAINE LOBSTER FESTIVAL. Five glorious days at the end of July and beginning of August dedicated to Maine’s tastiest and most coveted export.

Scores of steamed lobsters are served to hungry visitors.

Scores of steamed lobsters are served to hungry visitors.

Brenda Darroch

Just as lobster requires a bit of work, patience, and technique to unlock the deliciousness hidden within its iconic red shell, so does the drive to Rockland from points south. Especially if your idea of “northern Maine” is Augusta, an impression I had back when my Kennebunk-raised wife and I first started dating and a fact my Winthrop, Maine, native mother-in-law will never, ever let me forget. The meandering drive along “Old Route One” from Portland to Rockland is beautiful, but be prepared for traffic during the busy summer season. The most prolific—and in this case, ironic—source of congestion on your way to the Maine Lobster Festival is the year-round logjam at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, home of arguably the best lobster roll in Maine. Whether you agree with that statement or not, just accept the fact that Red’s is a stop sign cleverly disguised as a lobster shack. Don’t stress about it. Just tune in one of the many classic rock or country stations and be patient. Because once you’re through Wiscasset and past the Boothbay exits, it’s smooth sailing to Rockland and a festive summer atmosphere like no other.

The traffic cleared up once we made it past Red's Eats.

The traffic cleared up once we made it past Red’s Eats.

Brenda Darroch

You’ll feel the magic of the Maine Lobster Festival long before you glimpse the Ferris wheel or spot the first white and red vendor tent. The excitement of the entire community is everywhere but especially on parade day, a free event that embodies everything I love about summer in New England.

Residents set their chairs up early on parade day.

Residents set their chairs up early on parade day.

Brenda Darroch

Friends, family members, and neighbors mingle in front yards behind a steady line of empty lawn chairs reserving their places along the parade route.

These parade watchers came prepared.

These parade watchers came prepared.

Brenda Darroch

People of all ages, races, and organizations march in unison, ride on floats, and entertain the onlookers with smiles, waves, and fistfuls of candy tossed like bread crumbs to ducks on a pond.

Performers of all ages get into the act.

Performers of all ages get into the act.

Brenda Darroch

There’s a very real feeling that this event is not just “for the tourists.” It’s a 5-day party that the locals embrace with the same enthusiasm as summer folk fresh off the turnpike.

A little rain doesn't stop this band of performers.

A little rain doesn’t stop this band of performers.

Brenda Darroch

You can't have a parade without a few lobster boats.

You can’t have a parade without a few lobster boats.

Brenda Darroch

As the last of the classic cars carrying aspiring sea goddesses rolls through town, the majority of the spectators fall into an orderly procession to the harbor front. Here boisterous volunteers man the turnstiles where they sell day or weekend passes, apply fluorescent wrist bands and send the paying customers down the hill to the food tents where lobster is available in the form of single, twin, and triple dinners, Maine Shore Dinners, lobster rolls and lobster Caesar salads. Festival goers who don’t like or can’t eat lobster migrate to the vendor village for dining options ranging from Thai food to fried dough and just about every culinary concoction in between.

Melissa Philbrook was crowned 2013 Maine Sea Goddess at the 66th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland.

Melissa Philbrook was crowned 2013 Maine Sea Goddess at the 66th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland.

Brenda Darroch

Rocky the Lobster is one of the Maine Lobster Festival's star attractions.

Rocky the Lobster is one of the Maine Lobster Festival’s star attractions.

Brenda Darroch

Music from the main stage mixes with the bustle of people talking over their food, taking in the sights and enjoying every minute of a fleeting summer afternoon.  When all is said done, after every tent is broken down, the sea goddess is crowned and the crate race championship is decided; the all-volunteer committee gets one month to take a little pride in the results of all their planning and hard work before starting the process for the 68th time.  Each year, the Maine Lobster Festival draws close to 50,000 people who consume over 18,000 pounds of lobster and pump thousands of dollars into local businesses and community organizations alike.

Don't want to crack open a lobster? Snap up one of these tempting lobster rolls.

Don’t want to crack open a lobster? Snap up one of these tempting lobster rolls.

Brenda Darroch

According to the festival Web site: “No one gets paid for their efforts – our reward is the satisfaction of mutual involvement and the pleasure of knowing that the proceeds of our hard work and the hard work of our Volunteers helps support our community in many ways.”

Crowds of people mill around the grounds.

Crowds of people mill around the grounds.

Brenda Darroch

Like I said, when it comes to special events that capture the very best of summer in New England—nothing cracks The Maine Lobster Festival. I dare to say, nothing even comes close.

Who could pass up the chance to pose with King Neptune?

Who could pass up the chance to pose with King Neptune?

Brenda Darroch

The 2016 Maine Lobster Festival runs from August 3rd – August 7th. For more information, go to mainelobsterfestival.com.

Want more photos? Check out our Maine Lobster Festival Slideshow.

Have you ever been to the Maine Lobster Festival?

This post was first published in 2014 and has been updated. 

Comments
  • I am reading this article overseas and wish I was back home in Maine. Enjoy the lobster!

    Reply
  • It would be so great if you would include the Festival website, this year’s festival dates, and a contact for the festival above or below the article somewhere. I’m viewing this on mobile and that information is nowhere to be found!!

    Reply

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