64th Blessing of the Fleet ceremonies set for Sunday in Stonington Borough

64th Blessing of the Fleet ceremonies set for Sunday in Stonington Borough

The Westerly Sun

STONINGTON — The 64th annual Blessing of the Fleet in the borough will honor local fishermen who have died at sea with traditional remembrances and prayers and, for the first time, an exhibit of artifacts and photographs from local fishing boats.

The Blessing is slated for Sunday, although festivities kick off today with the Blessing of the Fleet 5k road race at 6 p.m. in the borough.

Each year, the event focuses on commemorating fishermen who died at sea, with special prayers for the safety and success of current fishermen, said Georgia Crowley, who co-chairs the event with her husband, Mike, and Ellie Dunn, all members of St. Mary Church in the borough.

The Blessing begins with the Fishermen’s Mass at St. Mary at 10:30 a.m. led by the Most Rev. Michael Cote, Bishop of the Diocese of Norwich. At 11:45 a.m., a parade will begin from Town Dock, proceed around the borough and return to the dock, where the Bishop will bless the boats in the fishing fleet.

Two commemorative wreaths will also be laid at the memorial to fishermen lost at sea at Town Dock.

The parade will include clergy, fishermen, members of the Portuguese Holy Ghost Society and Ladies’ Auxiliary, Our Lady of Fatima Society, Knights of Columbus, and the Stonington Men’s Walking Group.

Also marching in the procession will be First Selectman Rob Simmons and Selectmen Michael Spellman and Kate Rotella, along with state Sen. Heather Somers and state Rep. Diana Urban. Also walking will be students from St. Michael School, the Westerly Band, the Mystic Highland Pipe Band, NESS, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and many more groups.

Family members of late fisherman Charles Fellows will be the grand marshals for the parade.

Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of fishermen will also walk in the parade wearing cardboard boats emblazoned with the names of local fishing families.

The event will also honor late fishermen Juan O’Callahan and Arthur Medeiros, who was chairman of the Blessing of the Fleet for many years.

After the blessing, the Neptune, captained by Alan Chaplanski, will carry the bishop out to sea just past the breakwater, where Peggy Krupinski, who lost her husband, Walter, in a boating accident off Watch Hill two years ago, will throw a special wreath in remembrance of lost fishermen.

The Roann, an eastern-rig dragger that is a National Historic Landmark and is on display at Mystic Seaport, will make an appearance at the Blessing, and from 12 to 4 p.m. at the Town Dock, under a 40-foot-by-80-foot tent in case of rain, there will be food, music and activities, including a display of local fishing artifacts and photographs.

“We’re trying to tie the history of the dock with the history of the fishing fleet,” said Georgia Crowley. “We’re hoping it will grow into something much bigger eventually.”

The afternoon festivities will include the Country Misfits band, Portuguese food and hands-on activities for kids organized by NESS.

“I have to say, it’s grown every year,” Crowley said. “More and more people want to participate — it’s a good thing.”



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