Biloxi may get bigger “Blessing” this year

Organizers of the 77th annual Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet believe visitors may see more involvement when this year’s celebration takes place the weekend of May 1.

For the first time in 14 years, recreational boats are being allowed to take part in the Blessing parade on Sunday. Pleasure craft had not been allowed in the parade in years past because of congestion in the channel between east beach in Biloxi and Deer Island, where the blessing takes place.

“Years ago,” said committee member George Sekul, “there were so many work boats that participated in the blessing, the recreational boats crowded the area, making it hard for the larger boats to maneuver. In the past several years, he said, the number of working vessels in the ceremony has declined, primarily because of scheduling conflicts with out-of-state shrimp seasons and the rising cost of fuel.

The blessing, which is sponsored by the city and St. Michael’s Catholic Church on Point Cadet, decided to re-invite pleasure boats in an effort to generate more participation in the event.

To participate in this event, shrimp boats, charter boats and recreational boat captains can contact St. Michael’s Church at 228-435-5578. 

The Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet begins on Friday, April 29 with a party honoring former Shrimp royalty and continues Saturday at 10 a.m. with the Great Biloxi Schooner Race, a 4 p.m. Mass of the Blessing at St. Michael’s Church, and at 5:30 p.m., the coronation of the 2005 Shrimp King and Queen at the Biloxi Community Center, where a $10 seafood buffet will be served, with dancing afterward. Tickets: $10, through St. Michael’s (228-435-5578). 

For more information about the schedule of information and to see prize information for commercial craft, click here.

Details: Blessing Committee Chair Emily K. Burke, events coordinator for the City of Biloxi, 228-435-6370.