The 66th Annual Bayou La Batre Blessing of the Fleet is Saturday and Sunday, May 2 and 3, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on the grounds of St. Margaret Catholic Church, 13790 S. Wintzell Avenue. The celebration will include plenty of seafood--fried, boiled and stuffed; gumbo; Vietnamese food; and All-American hamburgers and hot dogs.
Music will be provided both days by DJ James Newell,. There's a Gumbo Cook-Off, children's activities, arts and crafts and food vendors, a Decorated Boat Contest, a raffle of the nautically themed quilt made by the Ladies Sodality, a boat and land parade, Bayou boat tours and, of course, the Blessing of the Fleet.
After 65 years, the Blessing remains the primary focus of this celebration, and organizers describe the current ceremony as follows: The Fleet Blessing ceremony, held on the dock at St. Margaret Catholic Church, begins with a prayer by the Archbishop of the Diocese of Mobile. The Fleet Blessing Queen is crowned, then the bell is tolled for each community member known to have perished at sea.
The Archbishop and other clergy board a boat, and from the bow toss the ceremonial wreath into the bayou waters. After this, decorated boats of all kinds form a procession behind the boat carrying the Archbishop and parade to the mouth of the of the bayou and back, as the Archbishop blesses their boats and docked vessels along the way.
The 66th Annual Blessing of the Fleet is made possible by the shipbuilders of Bayou La Batre and Coden. To download applications for various contests, parades or vendor spaces, go to fleetblessing.org/get-involved.php