World Championship Sardine Packing Contest

The World Championship Sardine Packing Contest was launched in 1970 in Rockland, Maine. But by 1990 the contest had fizzled out, due largely to an inability to find anyone willing to compete in it. This reflected the decline of the sardine packing industry in the region, as well a shift to mechanization.

The contest in 1972. Source: facebook

Circa 1971. Source: Digital Maine

Five-time champion Rita Willey became known as “the Mahammad Ali of all sardine packers.” There’s an exhibit honoring her in the Maine Coast Sardine History Museum. According to the museum:

when Rita was the reigning champion, she could pack 400 cans per hour. That means cutting and packing five fish per can. Her fame landed her on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, “What’s My Line?”, “To Tell The Truth”, and “Real People”.

image source: Maine Travel Maven

Evidently there must still be sardine packing contests held on occasion, though no longer in Rockland. The video below shows a 2005 contest sponsored by the Canadian firm Connors.

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