A parade of boats will participate in the 56th annual Blessing of the Fleet next Saturday on the Mississippi River. The blessing originated in the early 1950's when a flood threatened Portage des Sioux, Missouri. The towns Catholic parish prayed together to the Virgin Mary for the town to be spared, and the flooding waters parted and traveled just above and below the river town without entering it.
Over the years, the statue has served as a navigation aid for the area and the podium from which the annual Blessing of the Fleet takes place. As each boat approaches the base of the Shrine, it slows and receives a blessing. Darryll Weil, event spokesman, says the theme for this year's event is "SHARKS".
The boats will begin their journey toward the statue at 1pm, with the actual blessings to begin around 2:15. This year will feature a group of restored antique boats, some of which will be on display after the parade at the My River Home Marina in Portage des Sioux.