Eighty-Eighth annual Blessing of the Fleet
It’s a popular tradition celebrated along the Gulf Coast, the 88th Blessing of the Fleet brings together Mississippi residents and fishermen celebrate the fishing heritage.
Families and fishermen along the Gulf Coast gathered in honor of celebrating one of Biloxi’s most treasured traditions. The Blessing of the Fleet is known as a symbol of good luck for the fishing industry. Father Gregory Barras said, “The whole purpose is to give thanks to God for the bounty that comes out of the Gulf of Mexico.”
For their 88th year, over 50 boats sailed through the Biloxi Channel, following the tradition of dropping the Memorial Wreath out of respect for those who lost their lives at sea. “The wreath in that one moment, prior to the boats coming through, is significant to remember the men and women who died and we take a moment to be grateful for their sacrifice and for their love and their care,” said Father Barras.
It began in the 1900s where dozens of shrimp factories lined the Gulf Coast. Families say that even though the shrimping industry isn’t as popular as it was back then, it’s important to keep the tradition alive. Michael Kovacevich’s family owned a shrimping business. He said, “Biloxi was the shrimp capitol of the world at one time and a lot of that was happening right where we’re standing on Point Cadet. All these were factories and all these were hard working people that worked very hard for little money and you know, life was simple back then so we got to honor them.”
2017 Shrimp Queen Devahn Delaneuville said, “My great-great grandfather, they were in the shrimping industry in the 1900s. They actually came here from Croatia just looking for jobs and everything, but along the way, they actually ended up taking over the seafood industry and kind of running it so, again, we do have a big family name and we are known for who we are and what we did and everything.”
For 12 straight years, Father Barras blesses and prays for each boat to endure a safe and triumphant fishing season. “Their boats be safe. The weather isn’t going to be too bad and that the shrimp, it’s a good harvest because that always fluctuates with the weather and condition of the water. That’s why we bless the boats. We ask for safety and a good catch.