Blessing of the Fleet organizers make social media push to buy local

Crowds on the “Miss Judy Too” wave to the large crowd gathered on the pier Sunday during the 28th Annual Blessing of the Fleet and Seafood Festival at the Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park.

The Blessing of the Fleet may be a centuries old tradition, but event planners in Mount Pleasant, along with the shrimpers themselves, have taken to social media to keep up with the times and keep the annual festival thriving.

And thriving it was on Sunday. Hundreds turned out on the hot and sunny day for the 28th annual Blessing of the Fleet and Seafood Festival at Mount Pleasant’s Memorial Waterfront Park.

Dan Martin, of Mount Pleasant, said he’s been attending the festival for a “long, long, long time,” and was pleased with this year’s celebration.

“It was great, I had a lot of fun,” he said. “I always want to support the shrimpers since I grew up around here.”

Mildred Horlbeck, also of Mount Pleasant, brought her family to the event and said it was something they looked forward to every year.

“I just think everything is really lovely,” she said, adding that her kids “just love it.”

Nicole Harvey, special events planner for the town of Mount Pleasant, said the day could not have gone any smoother.

She said things that were new this year included a revamped layout and a larger number of shrimping and fishing boats in the parade. Led by one of the U.S. Coast Guard boats, there were 13 local shrimpers and fishermen that followed in their boats.

The mayor also announced this year a $10,000 donation to the Save the Fleet organization.

Harvey said something else that was new was a big push via social media to encourage people to eat locally. She said she wants the hashtags #justask and #getwild to become big.

“There is so much good, local seafood, there’s really no need to buy the other, imported, stuff,” she said. “I would rather pay a dollar or two more and know that it came from right here.”

She added that the town is having an online contest. Anyone who posts a photo of themselves in a restaurant eating local seafood with the hashtag #justask or #getwild on Mount Pleasant’s or Blessing of the Fleet’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages, will be entered in a drawing for various prizes.

Tressy Magwood Mellichamp, Capt. Wayne Magwood’s oldest daughter, said the there’s also been a big social media push among the shrimpers and fishermen to market their seafood.

“It’s harder for fishermen to keep up,” she said, noting that her father, just purchased a smart phone for the first time a couple months ago. “It’s the only way they can really market themselves now.”

Many of the local shrimpers and organizations can be found on Facebook, Mellichamp said, including Team Magwood, Rocky Magwood, Tommy Edwards, Community Seafood and Abundant Seafood.

She also encouraged residents to ask for wild American when buying seafood at stores and restaurants and to get educated about the three shrimps harvested in the area and the variation in sizes. The first crop is a large, white Roe shrimp, she said, then around June comes smaller, brown shrimp and then the white crop shows back up around November.

The annual party in Mount Pleasant was started 28 years ago by the Magwood family as a religious send-off for fleets before the commercial shrimp trawling season kicked off in mid-May. It was also started as a way to give back to the community, said Magwood.

“Without our local communities, our shrimpers wouldn’t survive,” he said. “This festival is all about community and support. They support us and we support them.”

Michael and Rebecca Cobb, whose shrimping boat is named “Family Thing,” said the event is a good time for family and friends to support the shrimpers and see what they do, adding that they enjoyed the blessing and boat ride.

“Shrimping is not just a business, it’s a family thing,” said Rebecca Cobb, adding that the festival was no different.

Reach Melissa Boughton at 937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughton.