Home for the Festival

By Sandra Sylvester | Aug 02, 2010

Home for the Festival

During my working years out-of-state all my bosses came to know that come the first weekend in August I would be headed home on vacation. Some years it was a hard sell, but there were very few years that I missed the festival. We all know what festival I’m talking about, The Maine Lobster Festival. I remember that for several years we called it the Maine Seafoods Festival because other towns in Maine had their own Lobster Festivals. I’m glad we’re back to the original name though. Most of us locals just call it The Festival anyway.

When we were kids in the South End, the Festival was the last hurrah of the summer. After that came the sidewalk sales up on Main Street and then off to school we’d go the day after Labor Day. Southend kids were fortunate to be located so close to the grounds where all the action takes place. We could hear the noise from the rides and people screaming almost down to our house on Mcloud Street. We could walk up to the Public Landing in just a few minutes. Later on, my uncle, Exavier Winchenbaugh, who lived up on South Main Street, practically on top of the Festival, let us park the car in his driveway so we’d be closer.

In those days it was really a two and a half day event. Friday around five o’clock, Neptune and his Court arrived at the dock of the Public Landing. That night was the coronation of the Sea Goddess. Saturday was the parade and Sunday was wind up day down at the Landing as the booths and rides started coming down.

Now we have a four-day event, which allows us to have more events. I remember the sardine packing contest when we still had the factories around. I see that in this year’s schedule we have a seafood cooking contest and a juried art show, which has been a feature of the Festival for several years. My brother, Harlan, put his watercolors in the show many times and usually got a ribbon for his efforts.

Saturday’s parade was always a must-do event for most Rocklanders. For many years I marched in the parade in the Port ‘O Rockland Drum and Bugle Corps. In those years we had several corps and bands in the parade from many towns in Maine and even some from out-of-state. I miss seeing them in the parade now.

Watching the girls being introduced by Dayson Decourcey every year was fun to watch up on the stage. I miss him too. We always knew a few of them when we were younger and especially when we got into high school. We all cheered for our favorites.

The most fun I ever had at the festival, however, was one summer when I was still in college. I went to summer school that year at Gorham State Teachers College where I met a great bunch of girls. They also knew some guys down at the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. Well as it happened, we got a bunch of them to come down to the festival. I took the girls all home with me and we camped out in the apartment attached to the house on Fulton Street as it wasn’t being rented at the time. The boys all stayed at a loft of some kind which I think belonged to the Academy. The picture you see here is of the whole gang of us enjoying lobster down at the Festival. You can see my black framed glasses poking up towards the back of the table on the right side.

They stuck with us that whole weekend and we had a wonderful time. The best part was the evening cruise we took on a sailboat which I believe also belonged to the Academy. It was moored there for the weekend. The water was like glass that night and the stars were as bright as I can ever remember them in Maine. I’ve lost track of those girls over the years. One of them was from Aroostook County; one from Norway, Maine; and one from Cape Elizabeth. We all visited each other’s homes at some point during that summer as a group. One of them taught in Connecticut when I lived there so I did get to see her once in a while.

I look forward to my time at the Festival this year. Watch for me in the Information Booth where I’ll be volunteering on Thursday. Come by and say hi.

Thanks for listening.

SPECIAL SHOUTOUT; I would like to give a special shoutout to John Duchak who will be phasing out his work of painting promotions for local festivals on downtown windows. The 89-year-old picked up the torch for our beloved Eddie Harriman 20 years ago. We wish him well. Who will pick up the torch again and keep this popular tradition going?

SAVE THIS DATE: August 10, noon to whenever. Sandy Beach Park in the South End. Bring your picnic lunch and a chair and come and visit with me and your blogger friends. My 2009 Blog CD will be available for those who want one. See you there!  The CDs are now available. If you would like to purchase one before then, please email me at KitKin007@aol.com for ordering information.

I will also be signing books at the Festival in the Marine Tent from 1-4 p.m. and also at the Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors Show the following weekend from 4:00-5:30 p.m., both Friday and Saturday.


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