The 72nd annual Maine Lobster Festival takes place this year from July 31 to Aug. 4 in Rockland, Maine.
“It’s a five-day celebration of everything lobster,” said Celia Knight, the festival’s president. “Last year, we sold nearly 20,000 pounds of lobster.”
In 2018, about 70,000 people attended the festival over the course of five days at Rockland’s Harbor Park, Knight said. Rockland is about 190 miles, or a 3 1/2 hour drive, from Boston.
Knight, who has attended the festival every year since she was a child, said she loves that the money raised by the nonprofit festival benefits the local community in the form of donations, grants, and scholarships. Also, it’s a lot of fun, she said.
“Even if you don’t love lobster, there’s something for everybody at the festival,” she said.
Here’s what to eat and do at this year’s festival.
The lobster — and other food:
The main attraction is the festival’s food tent, which will be chock-full of options, Knight said.
In addition to traditional boiled lobster, vendors will also serve lobster salad, lobster rolls, lobster bisque, lobster wraps, lobster-stuffed risotto balls, lobster wontons, lobster mac and cheese, fried lobster on a stick, and more.
Seafood options include haddock, scallops, steamed and fried clams, shrimp cocktail, mussels, and several clam chowders, including a new gluten-free recipe, Knight said.
Other offerings will stretch beyond the sea to brick-oven pizza, chicken, pulled pork, and carnival foods such as fried dough, cotton candy, hot dogs, french fries, and more. Desserts will include homemade blueberry cobbler and strawberry shortcake, both made with Maine berries. An all-you-can eat blueberry pancake breakfast will also feature Maine blueberries.
“You’re not going to leave hungry,” Knight said. “Because there’s a food selection for everybody.”
What to do:
When guests aren’t eating, they can listen to live music, hop on a carnival ride, visit touch tanks brimming with sea creatures, peruse the work of local artists, attend a parade, enter a contest, and even explore a pirate ship.
The pirate ship is a new addition to the festival this year, Knight said. Visitors can tour the ship, called Must Roos, and take photos with the pirates, she said. Activities on the ship will include weapons demonstrations, a puppet show, and a Piracy 101 class.
Also new are many of the carnival rides, Knight said. In response to customer feedback, the festival sought out retro favorites such as Tempest and Round Up, she said.
“They’re brand new rides, but they’re retro,” Knight said. “It’s pretty neat.”
Dozens of local musicians will perform on two different stages throughout the festival. Beginning last year, the festival decided to feature Maine-based musicians “because there’s so much talent here in Maine,” Knight said.
“We have everything from a one-man band to country to rock to blues and jazz,” Knight said. “There’s a Tom Petty tribute band that’s really getting a huge amount of interest.”
Guests interested in arts and crafts can view the paintings and photography of local artists and the talents of Maine crafters, who will display everything from pottery to hand-woven baskets to homemade fudge.
There is plenty of entertainment for children, including a children’s tent with sandboxes, art stations, and a wooden boat to explore, Knight said. Also for kids: a Codfish Carry, Diaper Derby, Kids Fun Run, and a Lobster Eating Contest.
Speaking of contests, the much-anticipated Great International Lobster Crate Race will take place on Aug. 4.
“It’s very popular,” Knight said. “There’s 50 wooden lobster crates that are tied out between a dock and a float that’s out in the water. You can either run across them or you can’t. It’s all about balance.”
Another popular event is The Big Parade, the annual festival parade, which will take place Saturday at 10 a.m. This year’s theme is “Community … at the heart of it all,” and Rockland will close down Main Street for the event. This year’s grand marshal will be the area’s community of veterans, Knight said.
“We have almost 1,000 veterans that are planning to attend, which is really awesome, and everyone is looking forward to it,” Knight said.
Other events include a Steins & Veins tasting event, where folks can taste locally made beer and wine, a seafood cooking contest for amateur chefs, a 10K Road Race and 5K Walk/Run, an Art Show at the Maine Street branch of Camden National Bank, and the coronation of the Maine Sea Goddess, a tradition since 1948.
View the full schedule of events.
How to get there and where to stay:
Guests can take a Rally bus from points across New England that include Boston, Lowell, and Worcester.
For those who drive, there will be free parking at South Elementary School at 30 Broadway, where a free shuttle bus will run every 30 minutes to the festival.
Visitors who need lodging can check out area hotels and camping accommodations.
Maine Lobster Festival; Rockland’s Harbor Park, Rockland, Maine; July 31 noon to 9 p.m.; Aug. 1 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Aug. 2 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; and Aug. 4 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission on July 31 is $1 for adults and free for kids age 12 and under; Aug. 1-3 is $8 for adults, $2 for kids age 5 to 12, and free for kids under the age of 5; and Aug. 4 is free for all ages for Family Fun Day. Please note: There is an added cost for carnival rides and some events.
Correction: An earlier version of this story listed the event as the 77nd Annual Maine Lobster Festival. It is the 72nd Annual Maine Lobster Festival.