Blessing still draws a crowd

A procession led by the Mount Pleasant Fire Department heads toward the end of the Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park’s pier Sunday for the 25th annual Blessing of the Fleet.

The parade of boats in the annual Blessing of the Fleet isn’t as big as it used to be, but it still draws a pretty good crowd.

Hundreds of people gathered on the pier at Mount Pleasant’s Memorial Waterfront Park to watch eight local shrimp boats file past with banners waving to receive a prayer for a bountiful harvest. Pastor Greg Surratt of Seacoast Church and Father Len Williams of Charleston Port and Seafarers offered up the blessings.

The local shrimp season started a couple of weeks ago, which is unusually early, because of the warm weather. So far, the season is off to a good start, said Ann Magwood, festival organizer and part of the Magwood shrimping clan.

“The reports that I’ve gotten are pretty good,” she said. “Hopefully it will stay that way. Of course, there are fewer boats out there trawling, too, so everybody gets a little big bigger piece of the pie.”

The crowd got a little description of each boat as it passed by.

Megan Elaine — Capt. Donnie Brown, Mount Pleasant native, has been shrimping for more than 30 years; tugboat captain in the off-season.

Miss Paula — Capt. Casa Tarvin, first year on his own boat, grew up working for Capt. Wayne Magwood on Winds of Fortune.

Winds of Fortune — Capt. Wayne Magwood of Shem Creek, third-generation fisherman, operates Magwood Seafood; son Rocky Magwood captaining the boat this year.

Easy Lady — Capt. Kenneth Ezel, fourth year operating this boat.

His and Hers — Capts. Paul and Mark Richardson, brothers; Mark’s son owns Starvin’ Marvin seafood market on Dorchester Road.

Knight Hawk — Capt. David Richardson, son of Mark Richardson of the His and Hers, raised on the water, fishing on his own for eight years.

Amy Marie — Capt. Mark Marhefka of Mount Pleasant, son of a commercial fisherman, started his career the day after graduating from high school in 1979, owns Abundant Seafood.

Family Thing — Capt. Michael Cobb, fishing out of Shem Creek since 2000, works tugboats in off-season, wife, Rebecca, is secretary of the S.C. Shrimpers Association.

This was the 25th annual Blessing of the Fleet, which used to include dozens of shrimp boats. The seafood festival that follows the blessing, though, has grown bigger each year, especially since moving from Alhambra Hall after the new waterfront park opened in 2009.

There was no official attendance estimate Sunday, but the crowd was into the thousands; about 10,000 typically turn out. Attendance was boosted by sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553