Blessing set for first weekend in June

One of city’s most cherished traditions, the Biloxi Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet, takes place June 2-3 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 79th annual presentation of the Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet will actually kick off Friday, June 1 with a reception for past Blessing royalty. The 6 p.m. event will be hosted on the Maritime and Seafood Industry’s schooner pier.

On Saturday, June 2 the Great Biloxi Schooner Race will be held at 11 a.m., featuring the museum’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.” Captians of the vessels will be Third District Congressman Chip Pickering and State Auditor Phil Bryant.

The race will take place in the Biloxi channel, with best viewing in the area between the Biloxi Lighthouse and the Schooner Pier.

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

Afterward, at 5:30 p.m., the coronation of the Shrimp King will occur in a ceremony in the auditorium of Nativity BVM Elementary School, where the shrimp queen will be announced. A shrimp spaghetti dinner will be served. (Tickets, at $10 each, can be purchased by calling 228-435-6370.)

On Sunday, June 3 the actual blessing of the fleet takes place south of the Biloxi Yacht Club pier. The ceremony begins with the 1 p.m. 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 Isle of Capri Casino Resort. The vessels will be blessed by the Most. Rev. Thomas Rodi, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi. Vessels will be eligible for two $500 cash prizes – one for the best-decorated boat and a second as a participation drawing. No applications are needed.

To print a flier about the Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet, click here.

Queen contestants sought: The Blessing committee is now accepting applications for 2007 Shrimp Queen contestants. Contestants must be ages 16-19 and must be affiliated with the shrimping industry. To obtain an application, call (228) 435-6370 or (228) 432-0097. Deadline for receiving applications is May 11.