ROCKLAND — The Maine Lobster Festival board plans to change its vetting process when picking the festival’s annual Sea Goddess after this year’s winner had to resign over some of her social media posts.

The board issued a statement Monday night offering more details about why it sought Taylor Hamlin’s resignation as Sea Goddess.

“Immediately after the coronation (Wednesday, Aug. 1), our committee chair (Sharon Lombardo) began receiving several messages indicating that the public persona on social media of our Sea Goddess was something to be concerned about,” the board said in the statement, without revealing who sent the messages.

“Eight photographs were received and confirmed via multiple independent sources that illustrate illegal behavior and a pride in that behavior and persona,” the board’s statement said. “Of particular concern was a photograph posted that specifically mentioned the Lobster Festival and coronation along with an inappropriate image. It was posted the night before the coronation (Tuesday, July 31), and after the judges had completed their voting process on Friday, July 27. It is an important distinction: This was not a social media background check; rather, it was a photo posted by Taylor during the event, mentioning the event.”

The board said it held three meetings with Hamlin on Aug. 2 and told her the behavior in the photos “prohibits the ability to fulfill the duties of the role of Sea Goddess.” The meetings were recorded.

The board said that even after she agreed to resign, Hamlin posted publicly about the controversy, including “misinformation about the photographs.”


Hamlin had said there were only two photographs – one from more than a year ago showing her holding a marijuana joint, and a second showing her holding a Juul, a device for inhaling nicotine.

“This is a terribly difficult situation with lessons learned on all sides,” the board statement said. “Actions taken to keep information private were intended to protect Taylor. However, it’s clear that it has polarized the community, which was never our intention, and for that we are deeply regretful. Our committee was doing what they thought best at the time.”

The board said the photos would not be released publicly, to protect Hamlin’s privacy.

No checks were conducted into social media posts by any other pageant contestants, a festival official told the Courier Gazette.

“We would like to see the community come together again to support a nonprofit event that brings visitors from all over the world to showcase our community and our fishery. We are eager to move forward so that we can continue to raise money for locals in need, as we have done for 71 years,” the statement concluded.

Hamlin could not be reached immediately for comment.


She had said Aug. 2 that she was told she could keep the $2,000 scholarship and was also offered the opportunity to remain Sea Goddess through the festival, but then would have to submit her resignation.

The controversy resulted in tens of thousands of critical comments to the festival and multiple stories written by media outlets around the world, prompting Hamlin to publicly plead in support of the festival.

“My intent was never to apply hate to the festival or anyone involved in the setup and take-down of the festival. I have grown up involved with the festival for as long as I can remember,” Hamlin said. “I feel as if people are losing sight of my purpose, which was to tell everybody the truth, risking my reputation. I truly want to extend my apologies to everyone who loves the festival and puts extreme amounts of work into it. I absolutely love the festival and would love to continue to volunteer for them.”

Emails between board members after the coronation controversy were provided to the Courier-Gazette, and show disagreement on the actions leading to Hamlin’s removal.

The board voted 4 to 2 on Aug. 2 to ask for Hamlin’s resignation, which she reluctantly agreed to later that evening.

Board member Shannon Kinney then sent an email Aug. 11 about the considerable feedback the festival had received. In the email, Kinney criticized one pageant committee member’s effort to find Hamlin’s social media posts immediately after she was crowned Sea Goddess.


“I am particularly disturbed by the role of one of the committee members, Melissa Burgess, in digging that dirt up,” Kinney stated. “The sea princess I sponsored shared the requests with me from Melissa, and it was completely unprofessional and indicated she had no idea the storm she was going to stir up.”

Board President Cynthia Powell said Sunday that Burgess was asked by Lombardo, the pageant chair, to look for Hamlin’s social media posts after someone sent them to Lombardo.

Burgess asked another contestant to help because she felt the young woman would know how to navigate the social media landscape and how to locate any other posts by Hamlin, Powell said.

Attempts to reach Burgess were unsuccessful.

The written guidelines for 2018 pageant contestants make no reference to background checks or social media posts.

The guidelines state that applicants must be single women, high school (or equivalent GED) graduates, not more than 21 years of age by Aug. 1, and Maine residents. The guidelines also list the required duties of a Sea Goddess after she is crowned.

The board said it would make drastic changes to the application guidelines, vetting process, communication and judging for the Sea Goddess. It will accept public comments at its next regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Maine Lighthouse Museum.

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