Blessing of the Fleet takes place May 4-5

One of city’s most cherished traditions, the Biloxi Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet, takes place May 4-5 off the Biloxi peninsula.

The weekend-long celebration, which dates back to the Old Country, will feature the Sunday afternoon blessing of a brightly decorated shrimping fleet to ask for God’s blessing for a safe and bountiful season. Dozens of shrimp boats and other vessels are expected to participate in the procession.

“This time-honored ceremony captures the true essence of our people,” Mayor A.J. Holloway said. “It combines the historical, religious, industrious and festive aspects that all make up Biloxi, and it pays tribute to what it still a strong and viable industry, our seafood industry.”

The events will kick off Saturday, May 4, with the Great Biloxi Schooner Race, featuring the city’s Glenn L. Swetman and the Mike Sekul, 65-foot replicas of the Biloxi schooners that plied local waters when Biloxi was recognized as the “Seafood Capital of the World.”

The race will begin Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Biloxi channel. Best viewing is in the area between the Biloxi Lighthouse and Casino Row.

A Mass of the Blessing will be conducted Saturday at 4 p.m. at St. Michael Catholic Church on Point Cadet.

Afterward, the coronation of King Robert Begnaud of Biloxi will occur in a ceremony at the Biloxi Community Center, where the new shrimp queen will be announced. A dinner and dance will follow, with music by the Knight Riders. (Tickets, at $10 each, can be purchased by calling St. Michael Catholic Church at 228-435-5578.)

On Sunday, the actual blessing of the fleet takes place south of the Biloxi Yacht Club pier. The ceremony begins with the dropping of a wreath in memory of deceased fishermen and seafood industry workers. Brightly decorated working shrimp boats and other craft will be in a procession that will stretch from the Biloxi Lighthouse eastward to the Biloxi Yacht Club. The vessels will be blessed by the Most. Rev. Thomas Rodi, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi. Best-decorated working shrimp boats will be eligible for $3,000 in cash prizes.

Here’s the complete schedule of public events:

Saturday, May 4

  • 10 a.m. – Great Biloxi Schooner Race in Biloxi channel.
  • 4 p.m. – Mass of the Blessing, St. Michael Catholic Church, Point Cadet.
  • 5:30 p.m. – Coronation of the 2002 Shrimp King and Queen, Biloxi Community Center.
  • 7 p.m. – Dinner and dance, Biloxi Community Center, with music by the Knight Riders. Tickets, at $10 each, are available by calling St. Michael Church at 228-435-5578.

Sunday, May 5

  • 1 p.m. – Dropping of the ceremonial wreath, near Biloxi Yacht Club pier.
  • 1:30 p.m. – Boat parade, from Biloxi Small Craft Harbor to Point Cadet Marina, with blessing taking place south of the Biloxi Yacht Club pier.
  • 3 p.m. – Awards ceremony at Point Cadet Marina.