The fishing town of Biloxi, Mississippi has been blessing their fleet of fishing vessels since 1929, and the tradition is still going strong. This year, the event begins on Friday, June 2nd, with the Memorial of the Mass for Deceased Fishermen, and concludes on Sunday, June 4th, with the actual blessing of the fleet.
The tradition of blessing a fleet of ships dates all the way back to ancient Europe, when fishermen entreated a safe voyage and prosperous season. Biloxi's first Blessing of the Fleet in 1929 involved the typical Catholic Sunday Mass performed by the priest of the local parish. However, the townspeople built an altar on the shore, and the priest used this new altar to perform his Blessing of the Fleet. Back then, fishermen decorated their boats in the bay and tied them together in a long procession. Meanwhile, the priest stepped from the deck of one ship to the deck of the next, blessing each boat in turn and asking for divine protection for the vessel and her crew.
Now, the ceremony is much larger and spans the course of a long weekend. Biloxi's large fleet of shrimping boats still line up in a long procession, but they progress from the Mississippi Sound through the bay, slowly moving past a boat anchored in the bay. This dedicated "Blessing Boat" is where the Catholic priest and bishop perform their blessings, speeding up the ceremony by allowing the officiants to stand still while all the boats parade past.
This year is 2017, and it marks the 88th Annual Blessing of the Fleet in Biloxi, Missouri. The people of Biloxi invite you and your family to celebrate this time honored tradition with them, starting on Friday, June 2nd. Friday's events include a memorial for deceased fishermen, as well as a reception for all the past Shrimp Kings and Shrimp Queens crowned in earlier years. The reception will also introduce the new contestants for this year's Shrimp King and Shrimp Queen.
On Saturday, June 3rd, Biloxi will hold an all day festival called Fais Do Do, which is an old French phrase that translates roughly to "street dance" in English. This event starts at 10 A.M. and concludes twelve hours later at 10 P.M. The Fais Do Do will host live music and other entertainment, as well as an area for children, and a number of vendor booths dedicated to arts and crafts, shrimp and seafood, and other country fair favorites. The gate fee is $5 for attendees ages 13 and up, and Biloxi offers discounted entry for active duty military, veterans, and seniors.
Sunday completes the 88th annual Blessing of the Fleet with the actual blessing ceremony for the ships in the bay. At 2 P.M. in the Biloxi Channel, celebrants will drop a wreath to honor the generations of fishermen who have died, as well as to honor all the other workers in the seafood industry. Then all the decorated boats will proceed eastward from the Biloxi Light House.
This is a popular event so be sure to plan ahead early, and book a room with us at the Margaritaville Resort.