Sunday, May 22, 2011

Blessing of the Fleet: Centuries old tradition revived on Mississippi coast

Sun Herald:

The annual Blessing of the Fleet at Pascagoula River Park on Saturday was full of firsts, and brought residents from several communities to watch the centuries-old ceremony.

According to the tradition that goes back hundreds of years, the practice is typically performed by a Catholic priest. This year’s event saw a Catholic priest and an interdenominational pastor blessing the boats and the festivities.

Pastor Eric Camp of Oasis Church in Pascagoula opened the ceremony with a prayer for the three missing fishing-boat crew members, feared lost in a collision this week near Biloxi. He then prayed for the more than 40 boats lined up alongside the old Scranton’s pier.

“I just want to speak that powerful blessing over every captain, every boat, every crew, every fisherman -- for their safety, protection and capacity,” Camp said. “And for a harvest-filled fishing season here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”

The ceremony took a more traditional turn as Father Thang Pham of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Vancleave recited Bible verses spoken at many fleet blessings across the world.

Another first for this year’s event was the sale of beer, which helped the local food and drink vendors bring in more money.

The Pascagoula Blessing of the Fleet was held annually for about 20 years, but lost popularity in the late 1990s. With destruction and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, the festival had not been a very big function until recently when two young women decided to give it a rebirth, making it bigger and better.

Anna Cole of Pascagoula and Jodi McKenzie of Ocean Springs remembered Blessing of the Fleet festivals when they were growing up in the area and decided a few years ago to try to organize it and gear it more toward kids.

With a dozen vendors selling everything from food to art and booths set up with activities for kids, Cole and McKenzie said this year’s festival was the best one in a very long time.

“We’ve had a great turnout and things are really building up, so we are very pleased with how things are growing and hope it just continues to get bigger every year,” McKenzie said.

The festival this year featured numerous activities, including a children’s jump castle, a booth where kids could fish for candy, watercolor painting, sand art, a band, a DJ, and several contests and raffles.

No comments:

Post a Comment