Return to Content

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

“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, ME.

This giant lobster is one of the parade's star attractions.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
This giant lobster is one of the parade’s star attractions.

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.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Scores of steamed lobsters are served to hungry visitors.

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.

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.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Residents set their chairs up early on parade day.

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.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
These parade watchers came prepared.

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.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Performers of all ages get into the act.

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.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
A little rain doesn’t stop this band of performers.

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

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
You can’t have a parade without a few lobster boats.

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.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Melissa Philbrook was crowned 2013 Maine Sea Goddess at the 66th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland.

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.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Don’t want to crack open a lobster? Snap up one of these tempting lobster rolls.

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.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Crowds of people mill around the grounds.

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.

For more information, go to mainelobsterfestival.com.

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

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Who could pass up the chance to pose with King Neptune?

Editor’s Note: To avoid the crush of summer visitors, make lodging reservations in a neighboring town like Rockport.

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Jim Darroch

Author:

Jim Darroch

Biography:

As Brand Communications Manager for Eastern Mountain Sports, Jim reports on events and activities around New England. When he's not in the office, you can find him kayaking, hiking, and mountain biking around the Monadnock Region and throughout the region with his wife Brenda and his dog Brewski. !
Yankee Magazine Advertising

Bring New England Home
plus, get the Tablet Edition FREE!

In this issue: A Real New England Christmas

  • Vintage Decorating Tips
  • Mission to Maine's Islands
  • Norman Rockwell's Stockbridge
  • Bonus! Holiday Cookbook
Subscribe Today and Save 44%

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

  1. HeathA July 11, 2014 at 6:17 am #

    Yippee for Lobster!! Great post, Jim.

  2. Jeff Manuel July 15, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

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

  3. Tara July 16, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    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!!

    • Brenda Darroch July 16, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

      Thanks for the suggestion, Tara! The Maine Lobster Festival site is linked within the text, but we have added it to the end of the article as well. Their site is: http://www.mainelobsterfestival.com/

Leave a Reply

We reserve the right to remove or edit comments that are offensive or disrespectful to our readers and/or writers, cannot be verified, lack clarity, or contain profanity. Your comments may be republished by Yankee Magazine across multiple platforms.

Register Sign In

©2013, Yankee Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Yankee Publishing Inc., | P.O. Box 520, Dublin, NH 03444 | (603) 563-8111

2014-nov-gift-sub400x400
80th-anniversart-calendar600x350-order