If there is a festival next year

By David Grima | Jul 31, 2020

Uncle Frank wandered into the office looking most discouraged, the other day.

He’d been out fishing, trying to catch mackerel, but for some reason he was unable to detect the traditional schools of these fish, and wondered what was going wrong.

In the end, we decided it was possible that the fish are social distancing in a time of plague, which would make schooling difficult. Furthermore, if they are also wearing face masks it would be hard for them to take a fishing hook, no matter how juicily baited.

Nothing is normal any more.

* * * * *

My dear pal Lord Prez Trumpleton (may he live forever, etc.) was talking to me about how he is getting tough on China, recently. I felt suitably reassured, and was able to bask in the glow that comes from knowing our top man is demonstrating firm resolve with the naughty Chinese.

Unfortunately, my sense of satisfaction did not last long. I found out that since last fall, the Lord Prez imported eight tons of furniture for his hotel in New York City and for his golf club in Los Angeles. It was mostly tables and cabinets, I am told.

I don’t mind saying that I felt I was rather let down. It will be awkward, but it will probably be necessary for me to mention this to him next time we get together.

* * * * *

Probably no need to mention that plans to re-open Fales’ store in Cushing have been put on hold due to the plague.

But apparently I could not prevent myself mentioning it, as you can see.

* * * * *

Last week, I printed a list of vessels in the Maine Windjammer Association fleet, and said that one of them is not a schooner. A few people tried to guess which one, but nobody got it right. It’s Angelique, a Camden windjammer that is actually a ketch.

Who knew I knew such stuff? It’s really a remnant of the sort of stuff I was expected to know back in the days when I was writing stories about the harbors, here and up the road in Camden. To be honest, it might be all that’s left of what I knew.

* * * * *

I heard last week from the volunteers who run the museum at Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde that visitors still can be seen, now and then, running along the bridge out to the lighthouse itself, just as actor Tom Hanks did in the movie "Forrest Gump."

That’s rather sweet, I think

* * * * *

Speaking of tourists, the local chamber of commerce estimates foot traffic at its visitor centers in Rockland and Camden is at about 15 or 20% of what is normal for this time of year.

This is especially sobering now, considering this would normally have been Lobster Festival week.

By now the tents would have been pitched in their regular places, and the food vendors would be hooking up their gas and electric appliances, getting ready to feed the steaming masses.

Speaking of steaming masses, half a billion live Maine lobsters would be bidding tearful farewells to husbands, wives, children and sundry relatives, neighbors and creditors, in preparation for making the ultimate sacrifice in the lobster cooker.

The parade participants would be sharpening their marching drill, and decorating their floats, getting ready for the parade Saturday. The carnival rides would be almost fully in place.

Over by the sea wall, the Eating Tent would be just about set up by now, its steel pegs driven into the asphalt hard-top, and the many crafters would be hauling their photographs, glassware, jewelry, clay mermaid statues, fudge, soap, carved walking sticks and leather beard protectors down to the stalls they have been assigned to for the duration.

Yes, I made up the bit about leather beard protectors. I dreamed up that idea up a few years ago while pondering on the essential feminine nature of much of the craftwork usually sold at the festival, wondering if we could get a few red-blooded masculine crafts every now and then.

Leather beard protectors appear to have been the best idea I could some up with at short notice and I suppose it was a little silly. Anyway, I’ve never seen any for sale.

The two main gates would already be set up near Merrill Park and down behind the police station, and the schedule of volunteers would be just about ready by now. The third gate is normally set up near the portable relief facilities, down by the harbormaster’s office. T-shirts and festival posters would be stocked in the temporary wooden hut down the slope from the main gate, and the stage for live performances would be almost set up on the Fishermen’s Memorial Pier.

(Did you know the pier was built by the Rockland Jaycees, the junior chamber of commerce, and they borrowed elephants from a passing circus to do some of the heavy lifting that was involved? Don’t tell anyone I told you.)

By the time this week’s paper comes out, all these arrangements would normally have been completed, and the festival would be waiting for King Neptune to emerge from the alleged briny deep where he is said to hang out most of the year, and things would be ready for kick-off.

Well, we all have our memories.

They’re planning to hold the Sea Goddess pageant next weekend, which I suppose means something has been salvaged from the ruins. I haven’t attended that since Ken Bailey was the emcee, which tells you something. (Not sure what.)

Each of us will miss something particular, this year. Something we each strongly associate with the Lobster Festival.

Maybe it’s the bands, maybe it’s the Sea Goddess event, maybe the lobster crate races. For me there are two things I will sincerely miss.

The atmosphere of the festival, all those sights, sounds and flavors, all rolled into one mystical expression of Rockland summer, best experienced after dark when all the carnival lights can be seen, and the crowds of ordinary people, many trailing balloon-carrying sticky kids behind them, roam all over the festival grounds; that’s what I will miss.

But there is one particular thing I will miss in a particular way: my annual Italian sausage sandwich as sold at one or two places on the grounds, served on a bun with peppers and onions, and eaten while I am walking around, leaking onions and ketchup all over my shoes. This I will miss in a special way.

To be quite honest, I always intended to buy one of those carved wooden walking sticks from the old fellow at the back of the craft tent. Can’t count how many times I have almost bought one, before my inner frugal Yankee nature (which I must have somehow picked up by breathing it in) kicks in and restrains my hand, even as it reaches for my wallet.

I don’t need a carved wooden walking stick. Not yet, anyway. But I do want one.

Next year I will buy one, I promise.

If there is a festival next year.

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at davidgrima@ymail.com.

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Comments (3)
Posted by: Drucinda Woodman | Aug 02, 2020 10:30

Tom got his sausage sandwich fix at Hazels Take-out a few weeks ago.Really good, David!

Posted by: Catharine S. Baker | Jul 31, 2020 16:30

I got out one of my LobFest Volunteer T-shirts and put it on yesterday.  I have enough to last through to when the Festival would've.  I haven't even managed to eat a lobster yet this year, which is sad.

Posted by: jen chapman | Jul 31, 2020 15:05

Not gonna lie, Mr G.  Your tribute to the festival hit me right in the feelings.  My favorite part is the parade, but being its director, I'm a little biased.  Cheers to your 2021 sausage sandwich.

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