By Sen. Roy Dyson

[ Senator Dyson's Newletter ]

In real estate they say it's, "location, location, location." That being the case the annual Blessing of the Fleet in St. Mary's County, MD has the location: a beautiful spot on the banks of the Potomac River overlooking St. Clement's Island, the site of Maryland's founding in 1634.

The 30th annual event is Saturday and Sunday, October 4th and 5th. As in recent years, it takes place on the grounds of the St. Clement's Island-Potomac River Museum in Colton's Point, at the end of Route 242. In addition to the many land-based events for the pageant, boat trips are available the island, another piece of choice real estate.

The Blessing of the Fleet is a community undertaking. The local Seventh District Optimist Club started it 30 years ago as a way of recognizing the start of the oyster season and also as a way of raising money for its many youth-related activities. Over time the festival also became a celebration of the Potomac River and St. Mary's County's history and culture.

The Blessing of the Fleet offers many activities for all ages. The traditional blessing of the boats is preceded by a mass celebrating the first said on the island by Father Andrew White after the successful conclusion of the voyage from England by Maryland's first settlers in March, 1634. The mass starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

An old-fashioned parade leads off a long list of events on Sunday. The parade beings at noon followed by a flag ceremony honoring the nine flags that have flown over St. Clement's Island.

Music and dance will fill the air from several stages both days. Saturday it'll be: Miss Maryland at 1 p.m; Bunny Bailey Dancers at 2 p.m; Patuxent Pearls, women's barbershop quartet, at 3 p.m; Ralph Butler Orchestra at 4 and 6 p.m; and Chesapeake Country Cruisers at 5 p.m. On Sunday bluegrass music starts the day with Jay Armsworthy at 1 p.m Also you can hear the big band sound of Night Train at 1 p.m. and Southern Drifters at 3 p.m. and enjoy line dancing from Spur Boot Scooters at 2 p.m.

Kids on Saturday can enjoy: a dog obedience show at noon; a kids tractor pull at 2:30; a mock battle with knights in armor at 3:45; a wildlife show at 4:45; and a puppet show and magician at 5:30. On Sunday there's the popular reptile show at 11 a.m and 2:30 p.m.; a dance demonstration at 1:30 p.m. and a kids tractor pull at 3:30 p.m.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the Blessing of the Fleet there will be the cutting of a huge anniversary cake at 7 p.m. followed by fireworks at dusk over the island. And as usual there will be plenty of food from a large number of community groups and vendors, including the famous Southern Maryland seafood.

Admission to the Blessing of the Fleet is $3. School children are free. And everyone attending the Blessing of the Fleet can tour for free the highly acclaimed St. Cement's Island-Potomac River Museum, which showcases the history and culture of the lower Potomac River. Boat trips to the island are available for an additional $2 during the two-day event.

For more information and directions call 301-769-2222.

[ Senator Dyson's Newletter ]