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    Sunday, February 25, 2024

    Resurgent Blessing of the Fleet keeps focus on local fishermen who died at sea

    Bishop of Norwich Michael Cote, right, and altar server David Sutton, left, move from boat to boat at the Town Dock blessing all the fishing boats in the fleet during the 57th annual Blessing of the Fleet in Stonington Borough on July 31, 2011. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Stonington — Sunday’s 63rd annual Blessing of the Fleet will feature some new additions while retaining its customary focus on members of the Town Dock fishing fleet who have died at sea and their families.

    “We never want to lose sight of that. This is a family tradition we’re upholding,” said committee co-chairman Mike Crowley about the event, which he added is experiencing a resurgence thanks to supporters with new attractions and a growing parade.

    Crowley said this year’s blessing will include the restored 61-foot eastern-rig dragger Roann, which is on display at Mystic Seaport. The Roann’s previous owners, the Williams family, fished out of Point Judith, R.I., and occasionally Stonington.

    There will also be tent at the Town Dock this year with artifacts from the fleet as well as photos and stories about its boats, captains and crews. New England Science and Sailing in the borough also will have an exhibit and will be offering children’s activities from noon to 4 p.m. at the Town Dock.

    As it always does, the event begins with a special Fishermen's Mass at 10:30 a.m. St. Mary Church in the borough, which plays an integral part in the annual celebration, Crowley said. The Mass commemorates fleet members who have died at sea and includes prayers for the safety and success of current fishermen.

    About 11:45 a.m., a parade will step off from the Town Dock, proceed through the borough and pass by St. Mary Church, where the Most Rev. Michael Cote, Bishop of Norwich, will join the procession back to the Town Dock, where he will bless the boats in the fleet. After the blessing and laying of a wreath in memory of local fishermen who have died at sea, there will be food at the Town Dock and music by the band Country Misfits from noon to 4 p.m.

    The parade will include the Westerly Band, the Westbrook Junior Fife and Drum Corps, the Mystic Highlanders, floats, antique cars, elected leaders, numerous other organizations and fishing businesses as well as the “family fleet of boats,” in which children will march with cardboard models of the boats in the fleet.

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

    Crowley said this year’s event program offers thanks to the late Juan O’Callahan, who was a big supporter of the blessing, as well as Arthur Medeiros, a longtime chairman of the event.

    The event actually gets started at 6 p.m. Thursday night with the Blessing of the Fleet 5K road race beginning at the Town Dock. There is also a 2-mile walk. Pre-registration begins at 4 p.m.


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