ROCKLAND — Gov. Paul LePage, Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and Knox County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Tim Carroll – a former president of the Maine Lobster Festival – are among those people who will not be allowed to march in this year’s festival parade.

The festival board voted Tuesday to exclude all political organizations and candidates from the annual parade scheduled for the first Saturday of August.

The online application for parade entrants already includes the new policy.

“The Maine Lobster Festival Parade is a nonpartisan, secular and neutral private event which celebrates our community, our people and our lobsters. Because of this, we will no longer be accepting political applications. We anticipate and appreciate your respect of this policy,” the policy states.

Board President Cynthia Powell said in these highly charged political times, there were other entrants to the parade who did not want to be marching alongside and be associated with various political groups.

Powell said the policy is fair because it excludes all political groups.

“We want to celebrate the lobster industry, celebrate the community and not necessarily make a political statement,” she said.

Representatives of local political parties questioned the action.

“I am troubled by this decision,” said Rockland Democratic Chairman Gerald Weinand. “Maine has a long tradition of candidates marching in parades held throughout the state, where they often zig-zag from curb to curb to shake hands and have a brief chat with constituents. Ironically, it is just this sort of person-to-person contact that can help to diffuse the ‘highly charged political times’ that Board President Powell laments. I know many of the candidates that have marched in previous parades – Democrats, Republicans, third party and independents, all whom I am happy to call friends and acquaintances.”

“I’ll add that the Lobster Festival is not a ‘private event,’ since it is held in a City park and the parade runs down City streets,” Weinand said.

A Knox County representative of the Republican Party also questioned the action but said a formal statement should come from Knox County Republican Chairman Blaine Richardson, who did not issue an immediate response.

There are more than 65 parades nationally that prohibit political organizations and candidates, Powell said, including the Yarmouth Clam Festival. The Yarmouth Clam Festival’s parade application states that “entries that are political, religious or controversial will not be accepted.”

The Lobster Festival last year limited political groups to walking the parade and not using vehicles, Powell said. The one exception was for anyone who was physically unable to walk.

The Maine Lobster Festival is scheduled to be held Aug. 1-5 on the Rockland waterfront.

filed under: