ROCKLAND — The decision by the executive board of the Maine Lobster Festival to strip the Sea Goddess of her crown created a firestorm that made festival organizers fear for their safety.

More than 10,000 comments and messages have been sent to the Maine Lobster Festival since The Courier-Gazette reported Thursday evening that Taylor Hamlin, who was crowned the 2018 Maine Sea Goddess on Wednesday night, was forced to step down less than 24 hours later over photos she had posted on social media.

One festival official said Saturday that a person sent photos of the official’s daughter at the festival, as if that person were stalking her. Another official removed her festival badge when she went into a local store because of the comments she heard being made.

“It’s been almost like a lynch mob,” said Celia MacMillan, who opposed the decision to remove Hamlin.

MacMillan said many of the comments sent to festival officials were threatening, nasty and unpleasant.

Shannon Kinney, who handles media relations for the festival, said extra police protection was requested because of the nature of the threats and comments. The festival ran from Wednesday through Sunday.

A communications dispatcher for Knox County said there were no disruptions or protests reported at the festival on Saturday or Sunday. The festival ended at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Kinney said lessons have been learned from this experience. She said that there may be changes not only to the judging but also to how decisions are made, and by whom.

Kinney, who is not on the festival’s executive board, said that the coronation members were simply trying to protect the event’s focus on family.

She said she was disappointed that this one action put a cloud over an event that pumps millions of dollars into the local economy, provides entertainment, and supports local lobstermen.

“Bashing the entire event is not helping anyone,” Kinney said.

Hamlin was asked to step down because of two photos she had posted on social media. One, from more than a year ago, shows her holding a marijuana cigarette. The other, from a few days ago, showed her holding a Juul, a device for using nicotine.

Hamlin said she pled her case to festival officials, but they insisted she sign a resignation agreement, which she did.

Hamlin gets to keep the $2,000 scholarship awarded to the Sea Goddess.

Portland Press Herald Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

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