Community Spirit

Even in international spotlight, it’s the locals who really shine

Earlier this month, for the 69th time, Rockland played host once again to the Maine Lobster Festival.

For visitors, the main event is the chance to eat Maine’s famous crustacean. Other highlights — the crate race and sea goddess contest, the concerts and games — help attract thousands and thousands of people from around the state, the country and the world. The Lobster Festival really is a marquee event for the Midcoast, and the organizers should be proud.

But my favorite part isn’t the fanfare down on the waterfront. It’s the Big Parade – the one time out of the weekend when locals take their deserved space in the spotlight.  

The parade is the time when the local community – not lobster – takes center stage. Our students, area charitable organizations and businesses all participate. They march downtown, the pride of the Midcoast, and my sense of pride and community spirit soars.

The parade shares a great deal of DNA with other local celebrations. Celebrations like Friendship Day, and Freedom Farm Days, Camden’s Summer Music in the Park, and countless other local get-togethers offer a chance for people in our communities to come together.

That may sound hokey, but the act of coming together in celebration binds us together as a community.

At the Big Parade in Rockland, I caught up with friends who I don’t get to see as often as I’d like. Everywhere I looked, people were having experiences just like that. I saw local college kids, home for the summer, reconnecting with people they’d known since kindergarten. I saw seniors, so full of community pride, marching or driving in the parade, waving enthusiastically at all their neighbors as they passed by.

It’s easy in times like these to focus on what divides us. It’s an election year. Political parties and other groups will be highlighting all the things that make us different, and those differences are important when we get into the voting booth in November. They’ll help us make our decisions. We don’t need to ignore them.

But events like these remind us of everything we share. Whether it’s a grange supper or a public concert with music and dancing, we are reminded of the great place we all live, and of the sense of community that makes Maine so special.

When one of our neighbors falls on hard times, the community comes together to help out. When a member of our community achieves greatness, we all celebrate their success. Our fates and fortunes are intertwined. Our children attend the same local schools. The successes or failures of our local economies can lift all our boats or see us all run aground.

The reason Knox County makes so many “Top 10” lists of places in Maine to visit, live, work and play isn’t just our scenic beauty, our quality of life and our bustling local economy. It’s the quality of our people and our community pride and spirit.

That’s what’s on display at the Big Parade, and in the town festivals and celebrations throughout the Midcoast. And it’s worth more than all the delicious lobster in the world.

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