The 35th annual Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival returns

Peep this Shem Creek shrimp boat. | Photo by @flashlightpowder

It’s oh-fish-ial: The 35th annual Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival is returning this weekend. The festival has one purpose: To celebrate Mount Pleasant’s local fishing and shrimping industry. We’ll cheers to that. 

Held at Memorial Waterfront Park on Sun., April 24, this free event features a boat parade, live music, a dance competition, and a shrimp eating contest. The festival also includes a ceremonial blessing of the fleet, aka the shrimp + fishing boats. 

Attendees are encouraged to come hungry + grab seafood and other treats from local vendors including Gilligan’s, Not Just Franks Cafe, and Shem Creek Crabhouse. If seafood isn’t really your thing, stroll through the Craft Show and browse handmade arts and crafts from local vendors. 

Each year, festival proceeds are donated to local nonprofit organizations — this year’s beneficiaries are East Cooper Community Outreach and Carolina Children’s Charity

It’s no secret that the fishing industry is prevalent in the Lowcountry. But just how influential is it + what’s the history? Let’s take a look.  

According to the South Carolina Encyclopedia, the shrimp industry is centered in Charleston and Beaufort + is the largest SC fishery. Here’s a timeline of events:

  • 1925: Commercial shrimping begins when a fleet of trawler boats travel to Beaufort.
  • 1940s: Charleston fishermen convert a coastal freight boat — like the ones we see at the ports — to haul shrimp nets out of the water. 
  • 1970s: Fish harvests continue to expand. 
  • 1995: The industry peak of 6.9 million pounds of shrimp are harvested. This is equivalent to $21,692,665.

What about our beloved oysters? The first oyster factory in SC was established in 1893 on Daufuskie Island and its greatest value in the state was almost 100 years later in 1981 when 461,401 bushels, worth $1,378,227, were harvested. 

We hope you head into the weekend with a bit more knowledge + appreciation for this local industry. Planning to snag some photos at the Blessing of the Fleet? Send ‘em our way