In 1947, two years after World War II, a group of residents and summer visitors in the area began dreaming up a way to revive pre-war summer activities in Maine as a way to build community morale. One member, recalling Nova Scotia’s lobster festival, suggested that Maine should do the same. It was an idea heartily supported by local lobstermen who needed a market to sell their soft-shell lobsters.
The Camden-Rockport Lobster Festival was created as a nonprofit and its first event, held in downtown Camden on Aug. 16, 1947, featured a parade with lobsters sold by the crate across from The Smiling Cow. The event was announced in The Camden Herald with the tagline “All the lobster you can eat for $1.00.”
Turns out, while that was a phenomenal deal for the festival’s participants, it sank the festival financially, so the Rockland Junior Chamber of Commerce took over the festival the next year as its club project. The expanded two-day festival took place in Rockland July 20-21, 1948. It featured a parade and cooked lobster trucked to the Public Landing. It also hosted a concert by the Rockland City Band and a coronation ball with its first Sea Goddess (then named “Miss Maine Seafoods”) — Ruth Roberts.
The following year, the festival grew in popularity and was extended for three days, moving back to its historic month of August with a temporary new name: “Maine Lobster and Seafoods Festival.” More successful than ever, it became Maine’s premier summer event.
Throughout the last eight decades, the Maine Lobster Festival has continued several traditions. For one, it provided a financial boost to the Maine lobster industry each summer, the goal from the first event in Camden. And how did they manage to cook all of that lobster? One of the largest lobster kettles in the world was first built in 1952 with another constructed in 1985. With two boiling tanks, 18-feet in diameter and a skilled crew of 10 overseeing it, the cooker could hold 16 100-pound crates at a time. By the 1960s, the serving line became efficient, running hundreds of people through the line per hour.
The selection of Sea Goddess is another tradition that has allowed a young woman of Maine to be the Festival’s ambassador each year. (If you ever get a chance, go to the Rockland Historical Society and check out the booklet, The Maine Lobster Festival 1947-1987, to see how the Sea Goddess fashions and hairstyles have changed throughout the decades).
The Grand Parade is yet another tradition that has taken place in downtown Rockland every year, drawing huge crowds and pleasing visitors from as far away as 79 countries.
With the Festival postponed in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic — the only postponements in its history — the organizers and community are beyond thrilled to return Aug. 3-7, 2022. This is sure to be the year to celebrate as the Festival keeps some of its old traditions and creates some new ones, as outlined in our latest blog post, “Exciting Changes for the 75the Maine Lobster Festival.”
Make your plans now to attend this five-day, internationally recognized celebration. Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to feast on fresh lobster by visiting our newly revamped website and blog.