McIntosh County finally blessed its shrimp boat fleet Sunday albeit in a downsized fashion after a one-year hiatus because of the pandemic.

The blessing was just that this year — a benediction pronounced over fishing boats as they nosed into the shadow of the Darien River bridge. That was the way the festival started 53 years ago, but the event has expanded onto the high ground downtown with a three-day festival with food, music and arts and crafts. The festival that normally started Friday night and ran through the blessing ceremony was called off this year because of coronavirus restrictions.

There may have been a thousand people watching from the bridge, the bluff, docks and the decks of the new Spartina Grill, but typically there would have been thousands. And the decks of the boats were laden with fewer people as attention was paid to controlling crowd sizes.

There was some catch-up with 2020 Grand Marshal Wynn Gale sharing space on the bow of the Miss Doris with Michael Vernon, this year’s grand marshal. Miss Blessing Kelcie Norris also stood in the bow wearing a crown and waving to the crowd.

There will be another round of make-up Sept. 17 and 18 with a Bounty of the Fleet festival.

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