The Blessing of the Fleet and Seafood Festival in Mount Pleasant is such a popular event, it has had to move to a space where it can spread out.
This year’s festival, on April 25, will be at the Memorial Waterfront Park at the foot of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. In past years, it has been held near Alhambra Hall in the Old Village section of Mount Pleasant.
The highlights of the festival, in its 23rd year, will be the shrimp boat parade at 12:45 p.m. and the blessing of the fleet at 1 p.m. In fact, the main reason for the event is to celebrate shrimp caught in South Carolina waters and to pay tribute to the shrimpers who bring them to our table.
Proceeds benefit the S.C. Shrimper’s Association, a group that wants you to choose South Carolina ocean-caught shrimp, rather than foreign imported pond-raised shrimp. The association estimates that about 75 percent of the state’s shrimping industry has been lost because the imported shrimp are so inexpensive. These imported shrimp don't taste as good and often have been “chemically treated with antibiotics as well as steroids for rapid growth,” according to the group’s Web site.
If you’ve seen the bumper stickers that read “Friends don’t let friends eat imported shrimp,” this is the group behind it. Also, for a list of the docks where you can buy South Carolina shrimp or restaurants that serve it, go to www.scshrimpmkt.com.
At the festival, area restaurants will have plenty of local shrimp ready to eat, and there’s an arts and crafts show. Live entertainment by Permanent Vacation begins at 1:45 p.m., and East Coast Party Band performs 3-6 p.m. Shag and shrimp-eating contests are at 4:20 p.m.
Free shuttle service will be running throughout the festival from three locations: the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market on Simmons Street; James B. Edwards Park at Royall and Bank streets; and Duffy Complex, 615 Center St. Parking also is available at Memorial Waterfront Park.
Several events also are planned in the days leading up to the festival. Learn about the South Carolina Aquarium’s sustainable seafood program and efforts to encourage local chefs to serve local and sustainable seafood at 11 a.m. April 21 at the Mount Pleasant Senior Services Center, 840 Von Kolnitz Road. Admission is free.
Author Mary Alice Monroe will read from her latest novel, “Last Light Over Carolina,” 6-8 p.m. April 22 at the Old Village Post House, 101 Pitt St. The cost is $25 per person, and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Reservations are required; call (843) 388-8935. Monroe also will sign her book, which takes place in the shrimping village of McClellanville.
Enjoy Bluegrass Under the Bridge at 8 p.m. April 24, at the pier at Memorial Waterfront Park. The cost is $10 per person.
WHAT: Blessing of the Fleet and Seafood Festival
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 25
WHERE: Memorial Waterfront Park, Mount Pleasant
TO GET THERE: Take U.S. 17/Johnnie Dodds Boulevard into Mount Pleasant
MORE INFORMATION: www.townofmountpleasant.com