PORTLAND – Mayor Jill Duson studied the yellow measuring tape and the sandwich next to it.
Dane Somers, executive director of the Maine Lobster Promotion Council, agreed with her assessment. The lobster roll before them did indeed appear to be 61 feet, 9½ inches long, more than enough to win a place in Guinness World Records if it’s authenticated.
”It’s official! The world’s longest lobster roll is 61 feet, 9½ inches. Right here in Portland, Maine!” declared Rep. Herb Adams, a Portland Democrat and master of ceremonies for the event organized by the West End Neighborhood Association.
However, although organizers and participants are confident they accomplished the feat during Sunday’s Old Port Festival, it will take some time before Guinness gets back to them with the official word.
In any case, the effort proved to be an effective fundraiser. Michael Whittaker, the organizer, came up with the idea as a way to provide swimming lessons to needy children. Sales of 4-inch-long pieces of the finished lobster roll — packaged with chips, a drink and a coupon for a lobster roll at a sponsor’s restaurant — are expected to fund lessons for about 250 children.
Beverly Kocenko of Portland was among the many gloved volunteers wielding squeeze bottles of Miracle Whip and stuffing lobster meat into the super-long roll. ”I (had) to be part of this,” she said. ”I love lobster, so this is wonderful.”
Margaret Salt McLellan, the 2008 Maine Lobster Chef of the Year, finished the assembly with a sprinkling of a secret blend of seasonings. She was impressed with the level of organization.
”It’s like a synchronized swim team,” said Salt McLellan, executive chef of Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine, which donated the lobster, valued at $1,200.
While the lobster roll commanded attention on its stretch of Commercial Street, other festival attendees were munching on fried dough, Italian sausages and other street fair snacks under mostly sunny skies. Crowds moved through the Old Port, where vendors and local merchants set up shop outdoors. Parents and children danced to the music at several stages.
”This is probably our best fair yet,” said Lee Carleton, a University of Southern Maine student from South Portland.
Her son, 2-year-old Sylus Caswell, was old enough to enjoy train and pony rides and lots of tasty snacks. As the festival wound down, he happily munched on kettle corn while his mother enjoyed a dish of pakoras from an Indian food booth.
The lobster roll event inspired a number of businesses and organizations to pitch in. The bread, for example, was baked by Amato’s Bakery in an oven loaned by Belleco Food Service Equipment Specialists of Biddeford and modified by Wilson Electric of Windham. The specially made pan was from Great Falls Builders of Gorham, and was delivered on a flatbed truck from Stewart Trucking of South Portland. The bread was carried to the site by members of Maine Roller Derby and other volunteers.
All the effort was worth it to Avery Thomas. The fifth-grader from Harpswell received the first piece of the lobster roll.
”It was like the best lobster roll in Maine,” he said.
The plan was to create a lobster roll at least 60 feet long, but the exact final length was not known until Duson and Somers announced their measurement.
Various groups have staked a claim to making the world’s longest lobster roll, but not all followed the regulations mandated by Guinness. Sunday’s effort aimed to top all previous ones, including a Canadian attempt that produced a 56-foot, 7-inch lobster roll. That roll isn’t recognized by Guinness, but was longer than the official record-holder, made during the Whatever Family Festival in Augusta in 1997.
”In any event, it doesn’t matter,” Whittaker said. ”We have surpassed all comers.”