While attending college at the University of Maine at Farmington from 2003 to 2007, I earned the nickname “Christine the Lobster Queen.”

This nickname was due to one thing: The 2003 Maine Lobster Festival.

I grew up in a large Victorian house on Hill Street in Rockland, where I lived until after I graduated college and my mother sold the house. If Hill Street does not sound familiar, join the club. I spent my entire childhood telling people I lived “near Carpenter’s Funeral Home” or “between Limerock and Willow.”

Growing up in Rockland, and within walking distance of downtown Rockland in particular, meant two things for my childhood: Every year we walked to the Lobster Festival, and every year various family members would stay at our house to join us.

I grew up attending the festival, the parade and the coronation. I can never think of a time I was not 100% positive I wanted to be the Sea Goddess.

A beautiful dress, a sash, a parade, a crown and lots of attention on myself? Sign me up!

In addition to the perks, one other thing convinced me that I should run: I love lobster.

Obviously, that does not make me unique in any way. Plenty of people are crazy about lobster, which is part of the reason we have an entire festival dedicated to it every year. But when I say I love lobster, I mean I really, really love lobster.

I demolish lobster. I clean those suckers out. I do not want anyone to crack the claws for me. I do not want the insides stuffed and baked. I do not want to dip the meat in butter (well, maybe a little, sometimes).

I eat the entire lobster as well. By the time I am done, all that is left is a pile of empty shells and the few spare parts that are not edible. If we are eating lobster together, then yes, I do want your body. Your lobster body, that is. There is some good meat in there!

After graduating from Rockland District High School in 2003, it was finally my time to shine. I was one of the 20 young women who made it into the Maine Lobster Festival Sea Goddess competition — the sea princesses.

Allen Agency Insurance Company, where my mother worked, was my business sponsor.

After question-and-answer sessions with the judges, including a private one at The Lobster Pound in Lincolnville, where we were informed we did not actually have to order lobster (excuse me?!) but I most certainly did order lobster, it was coronation night.

King Neptune at the time was being portrayed by Mike Miller, who currently owns and runs The Landings restaurant. The names of the winners were kept in an envelope. I was on stage, accompanied by my designated sailor, right behind Mike. This means I saw as he opened the envelope marked “crown princess” and revealed… my name!

Yes, in 2003 I was the Crown Princess of the Maine Lobster Festival! This means I got a crown (yay!) which I still have, of course, and a small scholarship prize. It also means I got to walk around the festival the entire week with the royal court, and had my picture taken with multiple total strangers, and never actually had to perform any duties.

The main thing I remember about that night is seeing Mike Miller open that envelope just before he read my name, smiling so much that my face hurt and I literally forgot how to smile, and staying out until midnight (gasp) because my mom extended my curfew just for the night after I won.

The crown (tiara, really) went with me to college, as did the full front page from The Courier-Gazette with the announcement. The newspaper went up on my dorm room wall, and the tiara went on my head all around campus, especially to open mic nights, social events and dances.

Because “Crown Princess of the Maine Lobster Festival” was a bit of a mouthful, friends and acquaintances started calling me Christine the Lobster Queen. Hey, it rhymed!

I embraced this to the point where my mother and father no longer remember the actual title and instead just call the Sea Goddess “The Lobster Queen.”

Yes, I still have the tiara, the sash and the newspaper. Yes, I still wear the tiara sometimes.

This is the first year that there will be no sea goddess competition. The festival explained that this choice is to give Chloe Blake, the young lady who won in 2020, a chance to perform some actual duties.

That makes sense to me, though it is certainly sad to think this will be the first year since 1948 that the coronation does not happen.

Each year, as the sea goddess candidates are announced, there are some grumbles. Folks feel it is an outdated contest, that it is sexist, that it should be open to all, instead of just women. Then, there are grumbles from the other side at the suggestion of opening the competition.

This competition was and continues to be an award. It is not a beauty pageant. There is no swimsuit portion. Nobody is being measured. This competition is about a person’s presence, speaking ability and personality.

When I participated, the contest was open to the first 20 women who entered. We had to be single women, with no children, who graduated high school and were 21 or younger.

In 2018, there were 13 sea princesses. In 2019, there were 11. In 2020, there were just four.

Sure, it is easy to blame the small number for 2020 on COVID-19, and I am sure that is part of it. Another, deeper part of it is likely a lack of interest.

As someone who actually participated in the competition, here is my take: Please, open up the rules! I would rather the competition continues with new life than fizzles into a slow death. Change the rules about marriage, children, gender, even age. The more, the merrier!

The original title was Miss Seafood Fair, so please don’t come at me with ruining tradition. The Sea Goddess pageant was a highlight of my youth. The tragedy here would be to lose this experience altogether.

I do have one recommendation, though. Whatever the new title, please keep the crown. That way, the winner can hang onto it for the rest of their life. Everyone wants to be royalty for a day.