WINTER HARBOR — For the second year in a row, the Winter Harbor Lobster Festival will not officially happen in August due to the ongoing pandemic, but tourists and townspeople will still be able to enjoy the annual lobster boat races and fireworks.
Those two activities “have always been separate and independent” of the town-sanctioned festival, Town Manager Cathy Carruthers explained. The races and fireworks are sponsored by D.C. Air & Seafood, which is owned by Selectman Christopher Byers.
The unanimous decision to not officially hold the festival was made following discussion at the Board of Selectmen’s May 10 meeting.
At the meeting, selectmen and community members in attendance spoke of the festival’s importance to the town, as well as concerns with holding the event safely due to COVID-19.
The town is especially aware of the coronavirus right now, with three of five schools in its school district, Regional School Unit 24, affected by positive cases, including the nearby Peninsula School in Prospect Harbor.
Selectman Kittridge Rivers said his only reservation with holding the event in full — the town hosts a blueberry pancake breakfast, lobster dinner, parade and craft fair put on by the Schoodic Area Chamber of Commerce — is the logistics in maintaining safety guidelines from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“In my mind, it’s a nightmare,” he said.
Board Chairwoman Kylie Bragdon echoed that sentiment, stating that the town does not have the proper infrastructure to support the craft fair in which vendors gather in the town’s gym, public parking areas and along School Street and Harbor Road.
Byers said, “I think the Lobster Festival is important to the town,” adding that people could wear a mask and not attend if they felt uncomfortable.
Bragdon then looked to Police Chief Danny Mitchell Jr. and Fire Chief Tate McLean for their input in keeping the public safe during the event.
“There’s a lot of logistical concerns,” Mitchell said. He added it would be impossible to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing. In typical years, the festival attracts thousands of visitors.
McLean said he was nervous about visitors attending from outside of the state and potentially bringing mutated variants of the coronavirus.
Peter Drinkwater, who owns the Winter Harbor 5 & 10, said that financially, the event is “a good day, but not a fantastic day.”
Cheryl Brackett, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber was working on a modified approach to the craft fair where some vendors could set up shop on nearby lawns, “Just for a festive atmosphere.”
Byers stated he could hold the boat races as he did last year and additionally hold the fireworks.
With the fireworks and boat races able to happen independently from the town and vendors offering crafts on private property, the board voted to not hold a town-sanctioned festival, but to approve the boat races and fireworks.
Rivers called it a “good solution” and Bragdon added that people “can act on private property as they see fit.”
In other business, the board unanimously voted to include on the town’s warrant at its June 16 Town Meeting an article asking if voters will approve discontinuing segments of the Bayview Road and The Terrace and accept the public easement on a new access road built by property owners Carissa and Andrew Marino.
The measure follows a years-long and contentious history between the Marinos and the board, in which the undeveloped “carriage roads” owned by the town became impassable following construction at the Marinos’ property.
Stating she believed in process and wanting the community to have a say, Bragdon thought the decision should be on the warrant and go before voters.