See boats blessed and so much more at 50th festival
Watermen still troll the rivers and bay around St. Mary’s to make an honest day’s living, while sharing the waterways with recreational boaters and fishermen.
All of those vessels — along with anyone else — are welcome to visit St. Clement’s Island this weekend for the 7th District Optimist Club’s 50th annual Blessing of the Fleet festival.
It’s been a tradition for centuries here and elsewhere to bless work boats at the beginning of a fishing season — in this case, oystering opened up in the state on Oct. 2. Now, while there is still a blessing performed at the Optimist event, it has blossomed into a fullfledged festival with music, fireworks, children’s activities, shuttle boat rides and much more.
Richard Lord of Bushwood, who is the chair of the Optimist event, said the event was started 50 years ago at the suggestion of a local Catholic priest to bless watermen’s boats and honor the founding of Maryland.
English colonists first landed in the region at St. Clement’s Island in 1634 in search of religious freedom and tolerance.
“I find most of the people down here are still in that mode of religious freedom and personal freedom,” Lord, who originally hails from the Boston area, said.
This weekend there will be live entertainment, Southern Maryland food, arts and crafts, wine and beer stands and children’s activities, including puppet shows, a rock-climbing wall, magic shows and pony rides.
Many of the activities will be on the mainland throughout the day Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 7 and 8, around the St. Clement’s Island Museum, which will be open for visitors.
Water taxi rides will take folks over to the island for more adventures, including tours of the Maryland Dove from Historic St. Mary’s City.
Once on the island, visitors can tour the reconstructed Blackistone Lighthouse and see the large white cross that stands nearby, marking the site of the first Catholic Mass in the English-speaking colonies.
The original Blackistone Lighthouse, which was built in 1851, burned in a mysterious fire in 1956 and was demolished by the government a few years later for safety reasons.
The St. Clement’s Hundred, a local community nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and beautification of the island, led a campaign to reconstruct the lighthouse, which opened to the public in 2008.
The 7th District Optimist Club hosts the Blessing of the Fleet festival annually to raise money for its scholarships and other civic activities.
On Saturday the festival is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., though the last water taxi will leave the island at 6 p.m. There are five bands planned to perform along with a host of other activities throughout the day, concluding with a fireworks show.
To mark the 50th year, the show is billed as the festival’s biggest ever and will upgrade from its usual 5-inch shells to the brighter, and louder, 8-inch fireworks, Lord said.
The festival is open Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Rev. Anthony Lickteig, pastor of Holy Angels and Sacred Heart churches, will celebrate a Mass on Sunday at 3 p.m., followed by a blessing of the boats. There are usually several dozen work boats and pleasure boats that come to be blessed.
There will also be two bands as well as a parade of high school bands, public officials, and fire and rescue volunteers the second day.
Admission is $10 per day, or $15 for both days, at the gate. Military personnel (active duty and retired) will receive half-price admission, and children 12 and younger are free.
For more information, including a complete schedule of the two days of events, visit www.blessingofthefleetsomd.net.
Online art auction benefits hurricane relief efforts
An online art auction, Artists Helping Houston, aims to raise funds this week to help those affected by hurricane Harvey in Houston. Those wishing to participate can place their bids online for any of the more than 40 works from Jeanne Norton Hammett, Ray Bogle, MaryLou Troutman, Carrie Patterson, Terry Quinn, Scott Geib, JC Nordstrom, Marcelle Fozard and others.
There are ceramics, photographs, jewelry and more. The auction, which was organized by Maribeth Boeke Ganzell, opened on Monday and will continue through 9 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8.
Proceeds will go to the Greater Houston Community Foundation.
For more information and to place a bid, visit www.facebook.com/ArtconquersHarvey.
See antique tractors roam downtown in Leonardtown Oct. 8
The eighth annual tractor parade sponsored by Southern Maryland Antique Power Association will be held on Sunday, Oct. 8, from 1 to 3 p.m. in downtown Leonardtown to benefit Christmas in April, St. Mary’s County.
Members of the Baltimore Washington Chapter of the American Truck Historical Society will be joining the event. Tractors can meet at Leonardtown Elementary School before the parade to register for a $10 fee. For more information, call Lee Dyson at 301994-0926.
Rotarians donate service and more to food pantries
One of the top priorities for the Rotary Club of Lexington Park during the 2017- 2018 year is to increase service engagement and focus on meaningful projects in the local community. To that end, on Aug. 7 members canceled their regular Monday meeting to instead participate in their first day of service in the community.
In an effort to help local food pantries maintain food supplies during the summer, Rotarians spent the day delivering food to two local food pantries, St. Mary’s Caring soup kitchen and The Church of the Ascension food pantry. According to Linda Lymas, president of the Rotary Club of Lexington Park, members were able to fill many shelves with food donations, and the club’s participation in this day of service was a powerful presence in the community.
“It was one way of showing our commitment to focus on service and to improve the quality of life for families in need of an additional food supply,” Lymas said in a release.
The club’s mission is to give Rotarians the opportunity to serve the community with their skills and talents, promote goodwill, friendship and peace, and effectively promote the core values of Rotary.
Lexington Park Rotarians are making plans for another day of service during the holiday season.
Forum to address roles of education and innovation
The Southern Maryland Higher Education Center Board of Governors will host a forum for community members to explore and discuss the roles of education and innovation in this growing and changing ecosystem.
A centerpiece of the meeting will be the unveiling of the design of the new third building, the USM Southern Maryland Research and Academic Building, to be completed fall of 2020.
This all-day meeting will be held on Friday, Oct. 13, at the SMHEC campus at 44219 Airport Road in California, in the center hall of Building 2. This forum will focus on three areas: the relevance of education, technology and innovation, and the agenda can be found at http://goo.gl/JGqATp.
Registration is $25 before Oct. 11, and $30 after. Lunch, refreshments and all program information are included, and dress is business casual. To make a reservation, visit https://smcchamber.com/events/event/ smhec-community-workshop.