People looking to enjoy Maine’s summer days and “The way life should be,” need to look no farther than the Maine Lobster Festival where organizers have banned political floats as they gear up for this year’s parade and events.

When the festival kicks off Aug. 1 in Rockland, experienced and would-be politicians are on notice that the parade is off-limits. This is an effort by festival organizers to keep the focus on family, fun and food rather than political strife and turmoil.

The five-day festival opens Aug. 1, starting with the famous food tent serving up steamed lobster dinners while midway rides and carnival games add to the fun. The annual event gains momentum, adding live entertainment, culinary contests and events including Steins and Vines, then peaks on the weekend with the coronation of the Maine Sea Goddess, Saturday’s big parade and headlining entertainers. The whole festival wraps up Sunday but not before one of the highlights of the festival: the afternoon International Great Lobster Crate Race in salty Rockland Harbor.

Now in its 71st year, the festival offers a free shuttle bus from nearby locations to the busy downtown festival area. Thousands of volunteers help bring this community phenomenon to life each summer. Proceeds from ticket sales go to community organizations that benefit youth and seniors, emergency services, the local recreation department and more.

It is estimated as many as 30,000 people visit the festival annually over the five days. This year festival foodies will be surprised with a few new menu items, including Lobster Bisque, Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese, Lobster Stuffed Risotto Balls and Lobster Wontons. These new additions to the menu are expected to be big sellers.

The old favorites will still be offered in the main food tent, including steamed lobster dinners with steamers and corn on the cob, mussels, fried seafood platters, lobster rolls, lobster Caesar wraps and lobster Caesar salads. Desserts are blueberry cobbler or strawberry shortcake.
For a full schedule of events, visit mainelobsterfestival.com.

But fun in the Rockland area does not begin and end with the lobster festival. Rockland, Camden and the surrounding Midcoast area boasts plenty to do. Visitors and locals alike look forward to the long summer days and warm summer nights, whether they choose to board a boat, sample the local cuisine, tour a museum or engage in a little retail therapy in the shops along the way.

There are lighthouses to tour, trails to hike and mountains to climb. There are sandy beaches to comb, crystal clear lakes to enjoy, and rocky perches at the edge of the Atlantic to explore.

Additional festivals keep the downtown streets bustling: the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland (July 14-15) and the Camden Windjammer Festival (Aug. 31-Sept. 2) attract crowds and feature live music, dancing and the Camden event also offers fireworks.

The blues festival at the public landing overlooking Rockland Harbor attracts some of the best blues musicians in the world and recently celebrated its 25th year.
On Saturday night, Main Street is closed to traffic and live bands perform. Adults may purchase wristbands to attend the pub crawl with all of the downtown clubs participating and opening their doors to blues festival performers. During the festival, food trucks, craft vendors and other merchants set up to supply festival-goers with the necessities. There are restroom facilities on site. For more, visit northatlanticbluesfestival.com.

The Camden Windjammer Festival signals the end of summer on Labor Day Weekend. It celebrates the town’s seagoing heritage, and the love is returned as Maine’s windjammer fleet shows up in force to kick off the festivities.

There will be live music, a contra dance, free movies, lobster crate race, chowder challenge, windjammer tours and more. Fireworks and a boat parade cap off the celebration. For a full schedule, see camdenmainevacation.com.

The Camden Harbor Arts & Crafts Show is another highlight of the summer. For more than three decades, this event has been held to showcase the talents of Maine artisans who come from far and wide to set up a tent and share their vision with the public. Booths are nestled into an open air market right next to the harbor in Camden Harbor Park and the nearby Camden Amphitheater on July 14-15.

Down the road, the Owls Head Transportation Museum will hold its highly anticipated aerobatic Wings and Wheels Spectacular on Aug. 4-5. This popular annual airshow features biplanes as well as antique cars and other airplanes, Model T rides, free children’s activities and more. There will be a car show and wing walker exhibition by Greg Shelton Airshows. Tickets are $25 for non-members.

Other summer events at the museum include classic car cruise-ins, a truck and tractor show and the August auction. Visit owlshead.org for details.

Boat lovers will enjoy the 16th annual Maine Boat & Home Show in Rockland’s Harbor & Buoy parks on Aug. 10-12. The show attracts boating enthusiasts, boat builders, designers, architects, craftsmen, artists, furniture makers, jewelers, marine gear vendors and more.

The event includes a Small Boat Love-In, Icon Boats Exhibit, demonstrations, children’s activities, live music, food vendors and the ever-popular Boatyard Dog Trials on Sunday morning. Tickets are $15, kids under 12 free. For more, visit maineboats.com.

Union Fair and the Wild Blueberry Festival will span Aug. 18-25 at the Union Fairgrounds off Route 17, a short drive from Rockland and Camden. This historic country fair is celebrating its 146th year, and offers midway rides and carnival games, exhibition halls, ox and horse pulling, a demolition derby, 4H shows, food vendors, live music, harness racing, laser tag, Frisbee dogs, lawn mower drag racing, fireworks and a Maine Wild Blueberry Queen coronation. Visit unionfair.org.

If fairs and festivals are too crowded and peace is what you seek, the Midcoast has many beautiful beaches, lighthouses, vineyards, golf courses, fitness centers, spas, state parks, theaters, restaurants and other spots where visitors can find rest and relaxation.

Among the beaches are Birch Point State Park in Owls Head or Drift Inn Beach in St. George, and the historic Owls Head or Marshall Point lighthouses. In Rockland, the half-mile granite breakwater features a lighthouse at the end of the line. Camden Hills State Park offers hiking, biking and stunning views from atop Mt. Battie, which is accessible by vehicle.

There are museums for young and old. The Maine Lighthouse Museum is located just off Main Street in downtown Rockland and has a large collection of Fresnel lenses and other memorabilia. It also displays U.S. Coast Guard photographs, personal histories, fog bells, buoys, fog horns and other artifacts, offering a rare educational opportunity for marine history fans. For hours and ticket information, visit mainelighthousemuseum.org.

Another museum not to be missed is the Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center just off Main Street in Rockland. Three generations of the Wyeth family, including N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth have works in the permanent collection there, along with Louise Nevelson’s sculpture, and the works of other American artists. Visit farnsworthmuseum.org for more.

The Coastal Children’s Museum in Rockland offers room for creative play, educational exhibits and hands-on activities in a fun environment. For more about the Mechanic Street facility, visit coastalchildrensmuseum.org.

For more on what is going on in and around Rockland in the summertime, visit mainedreamvacation.com.

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