ROCKLAND — Traditional crowns and sashes have taken on new names during the 76th annual Maine Lobster Festival, which began Aug. 2, 2023. Yet, “nothing has been taken away from these young ladies,” said the 75th and final Maine Lobster Festival Sea Goddess, Olivia Doherty. “These are brilliant and kind individuals who are out here giving it their all, the same as every person on this stage has done for the past 76 years.”
The ten women on the 2023 stage advocated for the changes they wanted to see made, according to Doherty. Those changes push toward inclusivity, “which I think is a pretty objectively positive thing,” she said as she urged naysayers of the new tradition to think only of the positives.
The details of the pageant have changed a lot since the first pageant, which was held at the Rockland Recreation Center and was titled “Miss Maine Seafood. These women are brave enough to be the first to walk across a new stage, said Molly Miller Staples, who introduced each candidate to the audience on Aug. 2.
“Any one of them would be an excellent choice to represent us,” said Lobster Festival President Celia Knight, who thanked the delegates for their time and energy. “This is not a beauty pageant. It is an event to find the best person to represent the lobster industry, the Festival, and our community.”
What was once known as Miss Congeniality is now known as the Congenial Award, given this year to Lizzie Swan and presented by co-contestant Allie Coburn.
What was once Maine Sea Princess is now 2nd Delegate (Runner Up), given this year to Autumn Oxton.
And what was once Sea Goddess is now Maine Lobster Festival Delegate, which Adelaide Hendrick will now represent for the next year. For her win, Hendrick was awarded $2,000, and as delegate, will help to raise awareness of the Maine lobster industry by meeting with Maine leaders and writing letters.
New this year is the waiving of a sponsorship fee, which has helped level the playing field of contestants. In place of those sponsorship funds by the individual candidates, community businesses now help finance the delegate competition, banquet, and other needs of the delegation.
Also new is who escorts each candidate across the stage. Instead of the traditional accompaniment of a service member, the competitors chose their escort, many choosing a parent.
“Change is intimidating,” said Doherty. “But it can also be so rewarding, and I think we’re seeing it play out here tonight.”
This year’s theme, “The Spirit of 76,” recognizes the 1,000 volunteers per year who travel from across the country to be of service to the Festival.
This year also remembers sailors and merchants lost at sea. Jay Sawyer spoke of the El Faro and the Midcoast Mainers lost with it, Danielle Randolph and Dylan Meklin. Sawyer also spoke of Tyler Michaud, 18, of Steuben who was scheduled to start at Maine Maritime Academy this fall. For all of them, the Sailors Prayer was played.
“I have been granted a front row to observe the display of strength, passion, and commitment Mainers have to our fisheries in the face of crippling challenges,” said Doherty. “I have always viewed Maine as a web; one made up of our residents, tied together by our industries.”
Reach Sarah Thompson at news at penbaypilot.com