Blessing of the Fleet Festival in Biloxi, MS

120-198 Cadet St Biloxi, MS 39530

The Blessing of the Fleet Ceremony is held the first full weekend of June each year to celebrate and pray for the safety and success as the shrimping season as it begins each year. There are several events over the weekend leading up to a ceremonial dropping of a wreath into the water, and then a parade that includes all of the fishing boats in the area. The fishing fleet is then blessed by the pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church, as well as the Bishop of the Biloxi Diocese. From there, the shrimping season begins each year.

While informal blessings of fishing vessels was common, the formal blessing ceremony did not begin until 1929, when the fishing trade boomed in Biloxi. In the very early 1900s canneries opened in the area, and as the industry grew, immigrants from Croatia and Yugoslavia, as well as Cajuns from Louisiana came to work either in the packing pants or with fishing boats, turning the sleepy city into a fishing community. Many of the immigrants and villagers had ties to the Catholic faith, and eventually a formal blessing ceremony began which grew into a full festival over time.

In the 1980s, many Vietnamese came to the area to work in the canneries, and many of them eventually got their own boats. More than half the fishermen are now Vietnamese, but the tradition of blessing the fleet continues. On Friday of the festival weekend, there is a Mass for deceased fishermen and a reception for previous festival kings and queens. The great American Seafood Cookoff is also held then. On Saturday, there is a shrimp queen pageant, a blessing of the fleet mass, and a coronation of the king and queen for the coming year. The official blessing happens early Sunday afternoon.

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