Bright skies, shining seas bless Southport fleet ceremonies
Updated 11:55 am, Tuesday, June 21, 2011
It was an Americana moment straight from Norman Rockwell.
Hundreds of people on Saturday lined Main Street and Harbor Road in Southport Village for the annual parade to the Lower Wharf, followed by the Blessing of the Fleet.
The old-fashioned community gathering, its roots planted in nautical traditions and the more than 250-year history of Southport's Lower Wharf landmark, attracted several fife-and-drum corps from throughout the state, vintage cars, federal, state and municipal politicians, local school children and the 2nd Company Governor's Horse Guard.
"It's quaint, and family and neighbor-oriented," said Gayle DiPreta of Monroe, whose son J.B. DiPreta, 11, marched with his hockey teammates from Eagle Hill School.
"To me, it's like Norman Rockwell. It's what New England is supposed to be. It brings the town together and I love the tradition," said Pam Toner of Fairfield, who attends the event every year.
The parade stepped off at Trinity Episcopal Church with a Fairfield police patrol car leading the way. In the event program, committee members invited anyone to join the parade and 3-year-old Harry Crawford took them at their word pedaling his tricycle along part of the route in front of one of the fife-and-drum bands.
Nadine Padowicz of Woodbridge held her dog Sammy and a small American flag as she watched the parade from her vantage point near Eagle Hill School.
Participants marched through the center of the village and under a large American flag that flew between two fire trucks. Spectators joined in en masse as the last contingent of marchers passed by. They continued to the Lower Wharf at the harbor, where a brief ceremony was held before clergy from three local churches blessed about 30 vessels, from a kayak to a sizable sailboat.
As the boats traveled through the harbor members of the Southport Volunteer Fire Department pumped an arc of water above the vessels and the clergy offered prayers. When a boater that they recognized went by they personalized the blessing.
The Rev. Sharon Blackburn of Southport Congregational Church asked God to keep the boaters safe in the storms of life, adding, "May the stars be fixed in your firmament for navigation."
After the blessings, those gathered enjoyed free hot dogs provided by the Southport Volunteer Fire Department Women's Auxiliary, and strawberry shortcake provided by Southport Congregational Church.
State Rep. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, called the event "a great, simple, understated display of what makes this country and state so special, and it recognizes the maritime nature of our town."
"It's a nice family thing," said Jean Ripp of Westport, who attends the parade and Blessing of the Fleet every year with her husband Ed.
"It epitomizes community and Americana ... It says something very eloquent and profound about being an American and seeing our past evoked in such a beautiful sight and sound," said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.