Once upon a time, dozens of young women wished every year to wear the Sea Goddess crown, conferred on the first night of the Maine Lobster Festival, in Rockland. Then, time wore on, and fewer and fewer sought the lobster-claw throne. Wondering whether to even continue with future coronations, organizers surveyed local high schoolers, trying to understand the waning interest. “We heard plenty of young women say, oh, that’s for the popular girls, not for me,” festival codirector Shannon Kinney says. “To them, it looked like a beauty pageant or a popularity contest. So we realized we had to make it more relevant.” This year, at the festival’s 76th running, the role of Sea Goddess is being retired, replaced by the new position of Maine Lobster Festival Delegate. Community service and knowledge of the lobstering industry remain prerequisites for contestants, who still have to answer questions for a panel of judges at a pre-festival banquet. The winner will again sit on the throne, wear a crown, and later represent the lobster fest at other regional events. No longer, though, do contestants (all in their late teens or early 20s) have to don matching dresses or be escorted by a Coast Guard or Navy man. Nor need they be women, since organizers dropped the gender requirement. Even if the new title lacks the mythic panache of Sea Goddess, it does seem to hold broader appeal: last year, the pool of contestants had dwindled to four, but in just the first few weeks of this year’s three-month application window, more aspiring Festival Delegates had already stepped forward.
This year’s festival runs August 2 to 6. Admission is free.
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