As the lobster capital of the world, it is no surprise that Maine is home to a remarkable lobster festival. The Maine Lobster Festival, hosted for 72 years and counting, is a sight to behold as food festivals go. The five-day celebration is bursting with amazing food, a carnival, local vendors, and ongoing events all held on the waterfront of Rockland Harbor.
Having attended the Festival nearly every year throughout my childhood, I chose to visit the 2019 event on Wednesday to take advantage of the old fashioned ticket pricing of $1 entrance. Before even entering the waterfront-turned-fairground, the excitement of the Festival is palpable. The retro carnival rides poke up high above the nearby buildings and a maze of red and white tents is visible with the harbor laying just behind them. After purchasing my ticket, I made a beeline for the food tent to fuel up before exploring the attractions. The seafood options include mussels and clams, shrimp, and—of course—lobster everything. For attendees seeking options apart from conventional boiled lobster, there are rolls, wraps, bisques, mac ‘n cheese, and any other food that reasonably accommodates the addition of lobster meat.
But even with endless supplies of seafood, no festival is complete without an array of desserts and drinks. For the purist fair-goers, there is fried dough and fresh lemonade, though my personal favorite stop is Stone Fox Farm’s delicious local ice cream truck. Just around the corner lies the Craft Tent where local artisans and proudly display and sell their treasures. While adults peruse the local crafts, children can play and learn in the Marine Tent where small sealife is available for viewing and touching in tanks and exhibitors teach kids about ocean industries.
Despite the many snack and activity options, many folks are at the Festival for one reason and one reason only—lobster. And, for those with a one track mind, Rockland delivers! The Maine Festival is home to the world’s largest lobster cooker, a permanent building dedicated to lobster boiling, which billows with hot steam for days on end. The cooker churns out well over 20,000 pounds of cooked lobster for the festival, enough to feed an entire county if needed. For those who prefer the idyllic allure of lobster more than they enjoy consuming mass quantities, a visit to Rocky the Lobster is in order. Rocky is a colossal model lobster who greets visitors at the entrance to the Festival and serves as an iconic backdrop to many photos.
For families making a day of Rockland’s Lobster Festival, there are events scattered throughout the five-day schedule that are worth attending. The opening Wednesday hosts the Sea Goddess Coronation to kick off the festivities. Every day includes live music performances and pirate-themed activities to keep everybody’s spirits up while chowing down on seafood. Perhaps the most anticipated attraction is Saturday’s Big Parade through the center of Rockland. Also notable are the children's competitions including a lobster crate race and a lobster eating competition, neither of which are for the faint of heart. Of course, there are also food-centric events such as pancake breakfasts and cook-offs for those whose cravings are not satisfied by the 20,000 pounds of lobster.
The Maine Lobster Festival is the end-all be-all of lobster events. Unpretentious and family-focused, this celebration of crustaceans is packed with delicious food and endless entertainment while retaining the charm of the Midcoast’s fishing heritage.
One of our favorite parts of this particular vacation was the day on the water we spent with Captain Rich and his crew aboard the Schooner Eleanor. Our boys had sailed before, but never in Maine. They were up bright and early that morning eager to see what the ride would be like.