PORTLAND, Maine — Organizers of one of Maine's highest profile summer events who decided to strip a lobster pageant winner of her title over online photos said Monday they're dealing with death threats and backlash.
The 2018 Maine Lobster Festival Sea Goddess was dethroned not long after she was crowned on Aug. 1 because of what organizers described as photos of "inappropriate behavior." Photos showed 18-year-old pageant winner Taylor Hamlin holding a marijuana cigarette and a vaping device, organizers said.
Since then, people involved in organizing the festival have received everything from mocking comments on Facebook to death threats, said Celia Knight, a member of the volunteer executive committee that runs the event.
Knight and others also believe that more local residents stayed away from the event, which typically attracts tens of thousands of people, because of the ill will.
"It's been pretty brutal," said Knight, who said she and her family have been harassed even though she voted against stripping Hamlin of the title. "A so-called friend even said she was burning all of her lobster festival shirts."
The lobster fest wrapped up on Aug. 5. Festival organizers released a statement on Aug. 3 in which they described Hamlin's stepping down as Sea Goddess as voluntary. The crown was handed to Erin Dugan.
Hamlin posted on her Facebook page on Aug. 2 that she felt the crown was taken from her after the pictures surfaced because someone felt the "need to sabotage this amazing thing that has happened to me." The remaining days of the festival were sometimes tense in Rockland, a coastal city of about 7,000. Hamlin posted on Facebook Monday that "hate and negativity is not the answer," and that she's upset that people are bashing the festival.
Police said they set up a contingency plan when they got word that protesters might try to block the Aug. 4 parade. The parade went off without a hitch, and police were otherwise not involved, said Deputy Chief Chris Young.
But Shannon Kinney, a spokeswoman for the festival, said the clash over the Sea Goddess Pageant has resulted in "incredible amounts of negativity." She said organizers are going to work to get festival fans back on board with an event that's designed to "highlight our beautiful community and our lobster fishery."
The lobster festival happens every year in Rockland, 80 miles (128 kilometers) up the coast from Portland. It first took place in 1947, when it offered all you can eat lobster for a dollar.
These days, it can attract people from more than a dozen countries — 16 this year. The festival includes the parade, live music, some 20,000 pounds of lobster and the Sea Goddess Pageant, which is one of its marquee events.
The festival has been featured in dozens of magazine and television spots, and inspired the title of David Foster Wallace's 2005 nonfiction collection, "Consider The Lobster."