Down East magazine received a barrage of complaints from people who attended the publication’s first lobster roll festival at Thompson’s Point in Portland on Saturday about long lines and no food before a fierce thunderstorm washed out the event.

Event organizers said they simply got overwhelmed by the numbers of people who showed up.

“We are deeply apologetic. Thousands of people showed up for day-of sales, which was not something we were prepared for. That is our fault,” said Kathleen Fleury, editor-in-chief of the monthly magazine in Camden.

The festival was designed as a fundraiser, with $4 from each lobster roll going to the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance.

People paid $10 to get in and then had to pay for food and drinks. There were only two tents, one for lobster rolls and other food and another for beverages. With more than 2,500 visitors, long lines formed quickly. So did the complaints.

By Sunday morning the festival’s Facebook page was filled with negative comments, some of which Down East turned off from additional posting.

Courtney Lorch of Portland wrote a post typical of the more than 100 complaints lodged on Facebook: “This was a truly horrendous event. I paid to get a ticket just to stand in line for a lobster roll for an hour, not even get one because they shut down the food tent due to rain, and then leave hungry. The parking ran out and there was ONE tent for food. Completely awful and disorganized. Everyone deserves a refund for the waste of time and money.”

Fleury said organizers had to evacuate everyone because of the thunderstorm, with some people taking shelter in the nearby Brick South building. The festival could not reopen because of extensive damage to the tents and debris scattered about the venue.

“We are really thankful everyone was evacuated safely,” Fleury said.

She said free lobster rolls and ice cream were distributed to those who fled to the Brick South building, and that the magazine is refunding money to anyone who paid for food and didn’t get it because of the mandatory evacuation. The magazine also will respond to all complaints.

The magazine posted the following announcement repeatedly on the festival Facebook page: “We’re sorry about the issues at the festival. Please contact us via email at [email protected] to make sure your particular situation gets addressed or for more information. Thank you.”

On the bright side, Fleury said, the actual lobster roll competition went well, with Ben and Lorin Smaha of Freshies Lobster Co. in Park City, Utah, emerging in first place from the field of 12 semifinalists. Ben Smaha is originally from Cape Elizabeth and Lorin Smaha is from New Hampshire.

Despite the fiasco at this year’s festival, the magazine intends to try again next year.

“What was very clear is there is a lot of interest in a festival like this,” Fleury said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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Twitter: bquimby