Dexter Stephens, 7, inspects his lobster during the 68th annual Lobster Festival in Rockland Friday. Credit: Ashley L. Conti / BDN

ROCKLAND, Maine ― One of Rockland’s signature events, the Maine Lobster Festival, is returning to the city’s waterfront this summer after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

The event will kick off on Wednesday, Aug. 3 and run though Sunday, Aug. 7. This summer’s festival will mark the 75th anniversary of the Maine Lobster Festival, an event that draws thousands to Rockland for the first week of August to celebrate all things lobster.

“We’ve been working on this big celebration for our 75th for the last two years basically. So we’re in full swing and ready to go,” Maine Lobster Festival President Celia Knight said.

This year’s festival will feature some noticeable changes. In honor of the 75th anniversary, admission to the festival will be free. Knight said the free admission is also in recognition of the tough times people have experienced in recent years and is an effort to allow as many people as possible to attend.

Festival organizers have also decided to eliminate carnival rides. Knight said the decision to forgo this element was to provide “greener” options for festival activities. In lieu of the rides, the festival will feature two large playsets, a larger tent for children’s activities, a rock climbing wall and an arcade.

While the carnival rides will no longer be a part of the festival, Knight said people will still be able to find fair-style food and games.

“We are trying to make the carnival a greener experience I think for people. There’s a lot of things for kids to do that are more hands-on than the carnival rides. We appreciate the carnivals that we’ve had over the years, but there are a lot of different things that we want kids to be able to enjoy,” Knight said.

Having to cancel the festival for the last two years due to the pandemic was a difficult decision, according to Knight, who said she is more than excited for the event to return this summer.

“I’ve volunteered for [the festival] my entire life and it is like Christmas in my family, so yes, I am extremely excited,” Knight said.