Community honors Red’s Eats
There was a large crowd in front of Red’s Eats in Wiscasset on Saturday, Sept. 30.
It wasn’t the typical long line that forms from the takeout window down around the corner of Water Street and Route 1. This crowd had gathered in front of the little food stand, and a lot of the people were wearing red. All were wearing smiles.
Red and white balloons were tied up around the periphery of the little building, marking the territory with the colors of Red’s lobster rolls, known far and wide for their large size and fresh lobster.
This summer marked the 40th anniversary of the Gagnon family’s wildly popular food stand, now owned by Debbie, Joseph and David Gagnon and Cindy Collamore. The town came out to honor that family, including their mother, Ann Sparks.
Wiscasset Area Chamber of Commerce’s Ben Rines Jr. read a proclamation saying, in part, “Red’s Eats is one of the most well known, and most written about restaurants in the state of Maine. And, whereas Travel and Leisure Magazine has listed Red’s Eats as one of the top 10 seafood shacks in Maine, and whereas Red’s Eats has become one of the most recognizable places in New England, and therefore has attracted many visitors to Wiscasset each summer ... Therefore be it resolved that we, the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen hereby proclaim September 30, 2017 ‘Red’s Day.’
After the proclamation was read, the crowd began cheering and chanting, “Red’s, Red’s Red’s!” Then Collamore and Debbie and David Gagnon mingled with the crowd, offering lobster rolls, fried shrimp, and crabmeat bites on gluten-free toast.
Many attendees commented that this was typical of the Gagnons – handing out free samples when the party was supposed to be for them. “The event was well-deserved, and, in typical form of the Gagnon family, they treated those in attendance to some of their specialties,” said Brad Sevaldson of BIRCH.
Collamore said the event was humbling. “Just to see the local support from family, friends, colleagues, and the town of Wiscasset is overwhelming. Saying we are appreciative is an understatement. We appreciate the love and support of everybody in this town, and we are so grateful for it. Without them we are nothing, and our staff makes us what we are. And we thank our father for starting this back in 1977.”
Debbie Gagnon was speechless with emotion, almost. “I really just can’t even believe this. I’m so touched, and am feeling very emotional. I’ve got this huge smile on my face, and I just can’t say enough about everybody in this community, and beyond, who supports us.”
As the celebration started winding down at around noon, the Gagnons got back to business as usual. A line had already formed down around the corner, and they had to start making the lobster rolls and other menu items people clamor for all summer long.
The first couple in line, from Atlanta, said it was their first time there. They had researched Maine restaurants and Red's came up. Then they saw news clips on it. The line was long when they drove by on Thursday, so they stopped Saturday on the way home.
Jeff Cane flew in from San Diego just for the celebration. He was going to Red's when Al “Red” Gagnon, who died in 2008 and left it to his four children, owned it. “I got in early this morning, and I'm heading back out right after this event. I know a good place, and I know good people. I truly enjoy Debbie and her family, and what they've put into this place.”
And Barbara Ragee was there from Seattle with seven cousins in Maine for a reunion from all over the United States. They had been staying in Rockport and stopped at Red's on their way to the airport in Portland. “None of us has been here before,” she said. “We've read about it, and saw on TV that this was happening today”.
Debra Elizabeth Schaffer, who owns DebraElizabeth’s in town, said about the Red’s family: “They give us good service, they give us great food, but nobody sees how much they do for the community. They donate to and support every organization. What they do is huge.”
At one point during the celebration, a red balloon got loose and floated up to get stuck in the 154-year-old Siberian elm tree Debbie Gagnon calls their “living umbrella.” Some said it was a sign that the clown from Stephen King’s story, “It,” was in the crowd.
“No, that’s Dad,” Debbie Gagnon said.