Dozens of boats sailed around the Pass Christian harbor on Sunday during the 26th annual Blessing of the Fleet. Many owners embellished their boats with bright colors in hopes of winning the boat decoration competition. What was unique about this year's Blessing of the Fleet wasn't so much what was being judged, but rather, who was doing the judging. After September 11, organizers decided the Blessing should reflect the tragedy and patriotic spirit that followed. They christened several local fire and police chiefs as judges in the boat decorating competition.
Bay St. Louis fire chief Robert Gavagnie said, "I think it's an honor to be selected, and I think it's wonderful that they're recognizing the fire departments. We're kind of the forgotten service sometime and I feel like this is really great."
The chiefs have many years of experience in fighting fires or crime but most were rookies when it came to picking out the winning boat.
"They had bunch of them decorated up nice and it was hard," said.Rich Marvil, Pass Christian Fire Chief." It was the first time I'd ever done it though."
"You could tell that these people they take pride in their boats. They're all shining. They've been repainted," said Long Beach fire chief George Bass. "It's like us in the fire service. We take a lot of pride in our work and you can see it in all the owners boats out here."
Also on board was retired sheriff's deputy Bob Steen of Erie County, New York. He says he's glad to see the recognition given to New York Fire and police has sailed on to other parts of the country.
Steen said, "It feels good. I just hope it continues on and people don't forget what the policemen and firemen do for the communities."