Blessing of the Fleet slated May 7

The community is invited to participate in the 47th annual Blessing of the Fleet at 4 p.m. May 7 at the Old Morris-Fisher Factory Tall Stack site, Omega Protein, 610 Menhaden Road, Reedville, rain or shine.

This is a time-honored tradition meant to recognize the Northern Neck’s sea-going heritage, reported committee member Janet Lewis. Sponsored by St. Mary’s Church-Fleeton, Omega Protein Inc. and the Reedville Fisherman’s Museum, the blessing marks the opening of the fishing season on the Chesapeake Bay.

The Rev. Sandi Mizirl, rector of St. Mary’s Church invites all boaters to participate in the parade and well-wishers to gather on shore at the old tall stack property at Omega Protein off Fleeton Road. Programs will be distributed on the water by the youth skiff patrol of Jessica and Sarah Haynie.

Commercial and pleasure boats will assemble at the mouth of Cockrell’s Creek at 3:30 p.m. to join the parade led by Capt. Linwood Bowis on the Chesapeake Breeze, followed by the Reedville Fisherman’s Museum buy boat Elva C. and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission patrol boat.

Other boats will follow. The menhaden F/V John S. Dempster Jr. will be docked across the creek.

The event has evolved to include the large menhaden fleet, crab potters, fish trappers and pleasure craft from all over the area, said Lewis.

Monty Diehl, vice president of operations at the Omega Protein Reedville Plant, and a fifth generation menhaden fisherman, will welcome all. Omega employs 240 people here and is a vital part of the economy.

The speaker will be The Rev. James Godwin, who has served as pastor of United Methodist churches in North Carolina and Virginia. He retired from Trinity UMC in Alexandria. Other local clergy will participate in the service.

Music will be provided by St. Mary’s choir, led by Carina Sprouse. The Kilmarnock and District Pipe Band will perform.

A memorial wreath, made by Beverley Biddlecomb, will be cast upon the water by honorary Harbormaster Ray Rogers, a retired waterman.

The Blessing of the Fleet committee acknowledges the generous contributions of the sponsors, community leaders and volunteers, said Lewis.