— BAYOU LA BATRE, Ala. (AP) — Fisherman gathered over the weekend off Alabama's coast for the annual the 64th annual Blessing of the Fleet.
The Press-Register reports (http://bit.ly/18plF8X) that Sunday's event was the largest fund-raiser of the year for St. Margaret Catholic Church. It was also a highlight of the two-day community festival in Bayou La Batre.
Archbishop Thomas Rodi asked the Lord to bless the boats, their equipment and those who use them before he departing on a vessel and ceremoniously blessing each boat during a floating parade down the three-mile bayou.
"Protect these boats from wind and storm ... and fill the boats for all those who make a living using them," Rodi said.
The annual blessing was smaller in numbers compared to years ago, before the industry was besieged by rising fuel costs and the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and hurricanes.
"You don't think about it as good luck but that God will bless us," said Tommy Purvis, captain of the 40-foot "Miss Jo-Ash," named after his two children - Joey and Ashley.
"A lot of people are on hard times," Purvis said. "The industry took a hit and ... the hurricanes."
Aside from the Sunday blessing, visitors to the two-day fundraiser partook in family-friendly attractions that included a petting zoo, pony rides, merchant tents, seafood dinners, a gumbo cook-off and Vietnamese cuisine.
"It is a good, family-friendly event and was a good way to get our puppy out," said Kimberly Conway of New Orleans, who brought her two children - Aidan, 9, and Brennan, 13, along with their 14-month-old cocker spaniel, Ziggy, to the event on their way back to Louisiana from a wedding Saturday in Orange Beach.
There were several new features this year, including an educational exhibit representing the Alabama Working Waterfront, a coalition of organizations from Mobile and Baldwin counties.