Recession blamed for end to Stonington's Blessing of the Fleet parade
Stonington - For more than a half century the annual Blessing of the Fleet celebration has featured a parade that contained not just marching bands and firetrucks but Portuguese dancers and floats made by Town Dock fishermen.
But when the 56th annual event is held on July 25, there will be no parade.
Arthur Medeiros, the longtime head of the organizing committee, announced Monday that the parade will not be held this year because of rising costs.
"In one word it's the economy. We've had donations and fundraisers but we still can't continue it. The overhead is just out of sight," he said.
Medeiros stressed that the blessing will still retain the traditional core events such as the Fishermen's Mass at St. Mary Church, the blessing of the fishing boats by the Most Rev. Michael Cote, the bishop of Norwich, and then the parade of boats out into Stonington Harbor where a wreath is laid on the water in memory of local fishermen who have died at sea.
Medeiros said it costs about $25,000 for the parade overhead, including items such as insurance and police costs.
"It got to the point where we were losing money. We just can't afford to do it anymore," he said.
Medeiros said organizers could scale back the size of the parade, which had already gotten smaller in recent years, but did not want to do that.
Last year organizers scaled back the usual two-day event to one day by eliminating the once-popular Saturday night music and party at the Town Dock. That event was also the victim of rising costs.
Medeiros said it is possible that in a year or two the situation may improve and the parade could return.
Even without the parade, he said the Southern New England Fishermen and Lobstermen's Association will make sure the parts of blessing that hold the most meaning for the fleet will continue.
"I'm the last person in the world who wants to see it end," he said. "I want to see it go on forever."
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