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Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival: Seafood, Sun and Beautiful Surroundings

Fun and unique destinations for getaways can be tough to find. Packed full of history, culture and entertainment, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, is just waiting to make your next dream vacation a reality. Records indicate that the first European settlers to the area arrived in 1680, under the leadership of Captain Florentia O’Sullivan from England. The Colonial Era saw the Mount Pleasant area grow as a community with an economy based on shipbuilding, agriculture and farming.


The Revolutionary War brought action to the area, due to the area’s close proximity to Charleston. The war came to a close in 1783 and Mount Pleasant was officially laid out and established in 1803. In 1860, Mount Pleasant played an important part in South Carolina’s role in the Civil War. The town hosted the public meetings and convention that lead to the state declaring its succession. During the war the area saw multiple battles, and most of the residents left town during this time only to return when the war concluded in 1865.


The area remained relatively stable through the last half of the 19th century into the early 20th century. It wasn’t until after WWII that the area began to see major growth in population and economy. Between 1970 and 1990, the local population quintupled and the economy flourished. Today, Mount Pleasant is a vibrant and activity filled destination perfect for a vacation.


When it comes to things to do, Mount Pleasant has something for everyone. The art and creative scenes in the city are flourishing. You can see this first hand by visiting one of the visually stunning museums, galleries, shows, or exhibits. If you're a fan of the outdoors, Mount Pleasant is home to some of the best golf courses in the region, pristine beaches, local parks and recreation areas, plus so much more. You’ll encounter numerous opportunities for shopping at local boutique shops, malls, and outlets. The restaurant scene here is diverse, allowing you to sample everything from delicious seafood dishes to the cutting edge of culinary creations. Festivals and events in the city are numerous and highly enjoyable. One festival that has been a huge hit for locals and tourists alike is the Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival.


For almost three decades, Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival has been a can't-miss event for thousands of people. The event is free to enter and it’s great for everyone. The aim of the festival is to support and raise awareness for the local fishermen and all the hard work they do to support the community each year. Some of the fun activities you’ll find during the festival include: a boat parade, activities for kids, shrimp eating contest, art show, shag-dancing competition and more. Bring some sunshine and seafood to your next big getaway and head to Mount Pleasant for the Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival. got the chance to interview Nicole Harvey, Special Events Planner for Cultural Affairs and Tourism Office of Mount Pleasant, to talk about the event.


RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.

NH: The 29th Annual Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival presented by East Cooper Medical Center and Harris Teeter will be held on April 24 from 11:30 am to 6:00 pm at Memorial Waterfront Park.


It is a free event, so without ticket sales it is impossible to give exact numbers. We rely on Mount Pleasant Police estimates, which range over the last several years between 14,000 and 18,000 during the 6 1/2 hour event. The festival draws a wide range of folks, from young families with small children to college students as well as grandparents and everything in between.


The Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival was started in 1988 by the Magwood family, a longtime Shem Creek shrimping family and champions of the local seafood industry, to give thanks and support back to the community they love. Over the years, the festival has focused its efforts on helping to educate the public about the ever-increasing importance of continuing to support local fishermen. Their modern struggles include competing with inferior yet cheaper farmed seafood products along with high fuel and maintenance costs, not to mention often dangerous weather and sea conditions.


The tradition of blessing fishermen as they head out to sea has roots in the Mediterranean dating back centuries.


RAL: What makes the festival unique?

NH: Admission, parking, and activities are all free! (Where do you find that anymore?) Set in the incredibly picturesque Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park, with its 1,250-foot pier into Charleston Harbor and the Ravenel Bridge for a backdrop, the scenery is unparalleled. The ceremonial boat parade and blessing begins with a procession led by a local Wando High School drummer and our Mount Pleasant Fire Department Honor Guard. It is truly inspirational to see the boats parade by the pier as the ministers bless them for a safe and bountiful season.


RAL: Take me through what people will find at the event.

NH: In addition to the boat parade, there is live music, a shrimp-eating contest, shag-dancing competition, an arts and crafts village where vendors sell handmade items, a Mount Pleasant Artists Guild juried art show, free children’s activities, and a beer garden.


Local celebrity Tom Crawford from WCIV ABC News 4 has been our emcee for as long as anyone can remember and everyone loves him. Cupcake the Clown does a couple of magic shows in the playground during the event. We’re also having a special “celebrity” guest. Mount Pleasant restaurants serve up delicious seafood and other tasty dishes, and we have other vendors who sell snack foods like kettle corn, funnel cakes, boiled peanuts, Italian ice and lots more!


The Ravenel Bridge provides shade for those who seek it, and the Great Lawn area in front of the stage is a great place to set up lawn chairs and blankets while basking in the sun. The festival has a laid-back and fun atmosphere full of laughter and community spirit.


RAL: What can attendees expect to find for local lodging?

NH: Mount Pleasant has a variety of hotel selections available that are sure to satisfy most people’s tastes. A complete listing can be found on the Mount Pleasant Cultural Affairs & Tourism website.


RAL: Does the event drive business to the local economy and does it support and special causes in the community?

NH: Yes, the Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival gives many local restaurants and business exhibitor sponsors the opportunity to showcase themselves to a large number of residents and visitors. Many stay several days and enjoy all that Mount Pleasant has to offer.


Each year the net proceeds from the event are donated to local charities that benefit the Mount Pleasant community. This year’s beneficiaries are Camp Rise Above and Carolina Children’s Charity.


RAL: Why should people come?

NH: The Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival is one of the only places remaining where you can see the awesome East Coast Party Band for free. In fact, it’s one of the few remaining events where you can park, enter, and enjoy the activities for free! The sense of community, the shag dancing competition, the shrimp eating contest, and the laid-back picnic feel of the park with its wonderful amenities are just a few aspects of the event that will bring you back year after year. The festival is a celebration of Lowcountry life and delicious food that offers an abundance of opportunities to make lasting memories.

For more information on Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival, please visit their website.