Every year the people of Charleston, and others from across the Low Country, come out for the springtime Blessing of the Fleet and Seafood Festival. The celebration is in support of the local shrimping and fishing industry, thanking the captains and their families for all the wild-caught seafood they supply to the community.
The event takes place at the Memorial Waterfront Park in Mount Pleasant, under Ravenel Bridge, overlooking Charleston Harbor. It attracts all types of people, local businesses, families, and lots of children!
All sorts of pleasure boats show up for the event, bobbing in the bay to get a good view of the festivities.
Everything starts off down at the end of the pier with the shrimp boat parade; each one is blessed by the local priest as it passes by. The boats carry crew and their family members onboard, and everyone waves and applauds from both sides. It’s very sweet.
This one even had Forest Gump himself onboard – up top, wearing a red cap and holding his suitcase, enthusiastically waving to the crowd!
The local radio station broadcasts the blessing live, so all the boats out there can tune in and hear the ceremony as it happens.
After the parade, there was a live band playing and lots of people “shagging” on the lawn. That’s what they call the local dance, the Charleston Shag, we were relieved to hear. We had to explain our shocked faces to a few of the revellers we spoke to – it means something very different in the UK!
But enough praying and dancing – it was finally time to get a taste of all this local seafood everyone’s so proud of!
I was desperate to try hot boiled crawfish. But first, I needed a little instruction. Thankfully, some friendly folks sitting across from us were happy to talk me through the mechanics of it. Basically, just snap the heads off, peel the tail, and eat!
They were excellent! Some local ladies next to me told me the real delicacy was to suck the discarded heads of the crawfish. But I couldn’t tell if she was kidding me, and it didn’t really sound like my thing, so I gave it a pass.
Next, we tried pickled shrimp, fish tacos, and regular old peel and eat shrimp (sprinkled with Old Bay, of course).
Without sounding trite, it seems to me that the closer you are to the sea, the better the seafood. We are really going to make an effort to choose local seafood over imported fish from now on. Luckily, we have plenty of options for buying local in this department! Most of the shrimp boats in the parade operate out of Shem’s Creek in Mount Pleasant – hope to see you there this season!