ROCKLAND – Rides like Pharaoh’s Fury, deep-fried Oreos and vendors hawking everything from sunglasses to hammock chairs are one thing. The real attraction at the 63rd annual Maine Lobster Festival this weekend is the event’s namesake.

People come to Rockland from all over the world for the lobster, clams, mussels and scallops. Everything else at the festival is just gravy. Or maybe butter.

“This is one of the reasons we came to Maine,” said John Schneider of Northampton, Pa., who is traveling down the coast from Bar Harbor to Portland with his wife, Trish Schneider.

Festival President Tim Carroll said he expects 50,000 to 60,000 people to pass through the gates into Harbor Park, where the festival is held. The festivities began Wednesday and will end Sunday night.

Attendees can hop on rides, visit the Made in Maine tent, hear live music and participate in myriad activities sharing a lobster theme.

A local favorite is the crate race, in which contestants bound as far as they can across lobster traps floating in chilly Atlantic seawater.

This year’s biggest musical act is country musician Clint Black.

noon Friday, about 10,000 pounds of lobster had already passed through the festival’s enormous cooker, which head chef Peter Smith affectionately calls “the Jacuzzi.”

The Jacuzzi can steam up to 1,600 pounds of lobster — 200 pounds each in eight baskets — in 18 to 20 minutes.

When the steamers are opened, each basket is winched out of the cooker on to a conveyor belt, from which volunteers empty the lobsters into in a giant tub designed to keep them hot.

Then “they’re trucked over to the food tent and sold to the masses,” Smith said.

All the lobster prepared at the Maine Lobster Festival are trapped in the waters of the midcoast.

The lobster festival serves only shedders — also known as soft-shell lobster, which can’t be shipped like their hard-shell relatives.


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