Where: Downtown Gig Harbor, Skansie Brothers Park
When: The First Sunday of June
This event has roots that go back over 50 years.
In 1970 the District Association of Gig Harbor Lady Merchants desired to honor the fishing heritage of Gig Harbor by starting “Harbor Holidays”. This event was in partnership with the Fishermen’s Club Auxillary and centered around the blessing of the fleet and a downtown parade.
It was recognized that the fishermen, many traveling clear to Alaska, lived dangerous lives to support their families and community and that it would be wise to say a blessing over them and take time to acknowledge those who have been injured or lost.
Even when Harbor Holidays ended, the blessing of the fleet continued as an annual tradition. This event has been sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and St. Nicholas Catholic Church for over 50 years. Participating are boats that date back over 100 years with 2nd and 3rd generation fishermen still in service in the Harbor today.
This type of ritual actually goes back many centuries ago in Mediterranean fishing communities. The practice began as predominantly Catholic, but is now practiced by all kinds of Christians. It usually involves a blessing from the local priest or pastors that is meant to ensure a safe and bountiful season.
What You Need to Know
The Blessing takes place at 1 pm on Sunday of the first full weekend of June every year. The observance begins with the Knights of Columbus in full nautical regalia, parading down the hill from the 110-year-old church to the waterfront to the sound of bagpipes. From there a choir of children sings at the dock and the priests board a boat to take them out to the fleet where they hold a liturgical service with 1000s, watching from the docks and waterfront.
Floral wreaths are floated and a bell is rung in remembrance of any men lost at sea.
In more recent years the priests have had fun using water guns to shoot blessed water over the boats.
The fleet are not the only boats present. The harbor is full of hundreds of boaters attending the festivities while 1,000s of spectators line the docks and waterfront. It is a great excuse to get out in the harbor with thousands of other people and just enjoy the community.
When the blessing is complete, all the boats sound their horns for several minutes like an audible fireworks show, echoing across the water. A memorable way to participate in the heritage of the Maritime City.
Wear Comfortable shoes and check the weather report and dress accordingly. This event takes place outdoors rain or shine.