Numbers Low, But Spirits High At Biloxi Blessing

You know shrimp season is about to get into full-swing when you see decorated shrimp boats cutting across coast waters. That was the sight from much of the Biloxi shoreline Sunday, as dozens of boats lined up for a blessing from Bishop Thomas Rodi Sunday for Biloxi's 76th Annual Blessing of the Fleet.

Dudley Langlinais, his friends and family, spent much of the morning loading up the "Love Boat" for a trip out into the Mississippi Sound, but the only thing this 30-year shrimper hoped to net was a blessing from Bishop Rodi.

"Well, it's just a heritage that started years ago. It's just to bless the boats and hope for a good year and a safe year," Langlinais said.

But does Langlinais really think it makes a difference to get a blessing each year? He said, "It doesn't hurt. You really need it this time of year."

The Biloxi Blessing of the Fleet started more than 70 years ago in the 1920s. Over the years, fewer and fewer people have come out to watch this time-honored tradition.

Arnold Migues caught his first glimpse of the Biloxi Blessing in the 1950s. He remembers the beaches and islands being packed.

"Back in them days, you know, the fishing industry was the main support of the Gulf Coast. That's the way it was. They supported it," Migues said.

The crowds have dwindled along with the number of shrimpers here on the coast, but Arnold says some things about this maritime tradition will never change, like the importance of the blessing to these shrimpers and his presence at this annual event, "...probably will be sitting here next year, too, if nobody else has got it," he said.

As part of the event, a helicopter dropped a wreath into the Sound in memory of all the fishermen who have lost their lives at sea.

There was also a boat decorating contest. First place went to the King Arthur, Lady of the Sea racked up second place and third place went to the Jubilee.