CAMDEN – It started out as the first Camden-Rockport Lobster Festival in 1947, and The Camden Herald editor at the time was instrumental in making it happen.

Before the festival became a reality, a group of local residents including “summer people,” began talking about how to revive summer events and activities that had been seen in the community before the war, according to the Maine Lobster Festival website.

It started in Camden in 1947. Courtesy of: Walsh History Center, Camden Public Library

In 1946, E. Hamilton Hall, editor of The Camden Herald, was a member of the Chamber of Commerce, which became interested in using tourism to revive the local economy in the wake of the war, according to Phillip Conkling, author of “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea” and Mary Bok.

He visited Pictou, Nova Scotia, to learn about a lobster carnival held there before World War II, and with three others formed Camden-Rockport Lobster, Inc.

Bok remembered her father’s excitement in planning the lobster festival. She recalled meetings held at the house the winter before, and how he thought it was going to be the greatest thing to happen in Camden.

The Camden Herald reported that first Camden festival drew 10,000 people. Photo by Elizabeth Grant, Courtesy of: Walsh History Center, Camden Public Library

That summer, she was away at camp, and did not get to go to the festival, but one day while she was away, she received a box full of red lobster pins, enough for every girl and boy at the camp.

The non-profit Camden-Rockport Lobster Festival, Inc. was formed. Its president was Earl Fuller of the Maine Coast Sea Food Corporation; the Vice President, Clinton Lunt of the Camden Shipbuilding and Marine Railway Co.; the Secretary was Hall and the Treasurer and Executive Director, Henry S. Bickford.

Camden resident and Philadelphia publisher Cary Bok was the first festival president and has been credited as the originator and sponsor of the first event.

The Aug. 16, 1947, festival was so successful, Sen. Margaret Chase Smith and Gov. Horace Hildreth were featured in the parade, and more than 10,000 others attended, according to “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea.”

The first festival offered “All the lobster you can eat for $1.” This is believed to be the reason the first year’s event lost money and the original Camden group abandoned the event.

The Rockland Junior Chamber of Commerce decided to pick up the festival and run with it in Rockland the following year.

Charles Bicknell of the club served as the president for the next few years.

The 1948 festival featured a parade through the city, lobster cooked by several local dealers and trucked to Rockland ‘s Public Landing, a concert by the Rockland City Band on Saturday afternoon, and a coronation ball Saturday evening at the Rockland Community Building.

Ruth Roberts of Rockland was crowned the first “Miss Maine Seafoods.”

By the end of that first festival in Rockland, many of the traditions that have dominated since were set in place: selection of a Sea Goddess, eating lobster and a grand parade.

Sources for this story include “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea” by Phillip Conkling; the Maine Lobster Festival website; a booklet published by the Rockland Festival Corporation entitled: “Maine Lobster Festival 1947-1987 ‘Festival Memories’”; and articles from The Courier-Gazette and Camden Herald including the Camden Herald story for its 150th anniversary.