Shrimp Festival, Blessing on tap this weekend

One of city’s most-cherished traditions, the Biloxi Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet, takes place this weekend.

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 has said of the event. “It combines the historical, religious, industrious and festive aspects that all make up Biloxi, and it pays tribute to what continues to be a strong and viable part of our economy, our seafood industry.”

The 80th annual presentation of the Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet will actually kick off this evening, with a reception for past Blessing royalty. The 5 p.m. event will be hosted on the Maritime and Seafood Industry’s schooner pier.

On Saturday the Great Biloxi Schooner Race will be held at 10 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.”

The race will take place in the Biloxi channel, with best viewing in the area between the Biloxi Lighthouse and the Schooner Pier. Captains will be State Rep. Diane Creel Peranich and Mississippi Development Authority Director Gray Swoope.

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 on the Town Green, where the traditional “fais-do-do,” or street dance, will occur. The selection of the of the Shrimp Queen also will be made.

On Sunday, the actual blessing of the fleet takes place south of the Biloxi Yacht Club pier. The ceremony begins with the 2 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 the Rev. Gregory M. Barras, pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church.

More online

To visit the web site for the Blessing of the Fleet, click here.