80th Annual Blessing of the Fleet

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The 80th annual Blessing of the Fleet kicked off Saturday morning with the great Biloxi Schooner Race. Spectators cheered on the two schooners named the "Glenn L. Swetman" schooner and the "Mike Sekul".

Mississippi State Representative Diane Peranich and Mississippi Development Authority Director Gary Swoope were the skippers in this year's race.

South Mississippians also came out for the Fais Do Do on the Biloxi Town Green.

"Look at all the fun. Look at all the people. We don't get many days like this when it gets this close to summer," said vendor Donnie Blaylock. "It's gorgeous. It's a good time to get out. Where else can you go and have this much fun all day for five dollars."

Blaylock was just one of many vendors participating in this year's Fais Do Do.

"Somebody had told us about the Fais Do Do. Actually a group had done cake-walks years past and they said, 'Why don't you guys take over?' That's exactly what we did. We thought what a great fundraiser and how much more fun could it be, and everybody's had a great time," said Blaylock.

On the other side of Biloxi's Town Green, authors Janie Koch and Connie Heitzmann were dressed as characters in story books they had for sale.

"Everybody smiles when they see us," said Janie Koch. "We bring smiles to people, and that's what we are here for."

"This is what we wear all the time. We're characters," said Connie Heitzmann.

While many of the vendors are home grown, there were some out-of-towners looking to cash in on the fun.

"We've had good comments about our jewelry, and we've actually sold some," said Gary O'Kane of Ocala, Florida.

It was O'Kane's first Fais Do Do but like many other participants, he's already looking forward to next year.

The celebration continued Sunday with the ceremonial wreath dropping at 2 p.m. Boats formed in the west end of the Biloxi Channel near the Beau Rivage and then paraded east.

Shrimp and recreational boats receive blessings for a safe and bountiful season.

Stevie Cantrell was crowned this year's Shrimp Queen. Her king is Corky Hires.

Spectators cheered on the "Glenn L Swetman" Schooner and the "Mike Sekul" Schooner raced across the Mississippi Sound.

State Representative Diane Peranich and MDA Director Gray Swoope were the skippers in this year's race. The Great Biloxi Schooner Race was close, but in the end, Swoope captained the Swetman to the finish line first.

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