Southport welcomes summer with Blessing of the Fleet

Fairfield tradition, in 22nd year, honors family whose son is in service

Southport welcomed the return of summer, and one of its own from military service, during the annual Blessing of the Fleet Saturday, June 14.

Some 50 boats sailed between arcs of water shot skyward from fire hoses as clergy blessed passing boats.

The annual event begins with a pancake breakfast at Eagle Hill School, 214 Main Street, followed by a parade down Pequot Avenue to Southport’s Lower Wharf.

The procession included five marching bands, the Governor’s Horse Guard, a fife and drum corps in traditional regalia and classic antique cars provided by the Connecticut Seaport Car Club.

This year’s grand marshals were Dave and Lori Peck, who for 30 years have owned the Spic and Span Market. The Pecks are also celebrating the return of their son, Alex, after 396 days as a specialist MP in the 237th Infantry.

“We were chosen due to our 30-year commitment to the community,” said Dave.

“It’s truly an amazing day and we’re glad to be a part of it,” Lori said. “We hope they (our servicemen) all come home.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said, “This is a perfect parade; a wonderful spirit of community, great weather, the Blessing of the Fleet which goes back centuries, and just a truly American occasion, a wonderful way to start Father’s Day weekend. I thank our veterans for their service. It’s great that Alex Peck is back from Afghanistan and we are grateful to all our men and women in service.”

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes concurred; “We were just saying how wonderful it is to be with the community on such a gorgeous day. This is, at least for me, the unofficial start of summer; I’m delighted to be here.”

Steve Galpin, past commodore of the Pequot Yacht Club, initiated the Blessing of the Fleet in Southport Harbor 22 years ago.

“My wife and I were cruising east of here and we stopped at Point Judith to get fuel (diesel) and we found ourselves in the middle of a parade with a lot of fishing boats and people aboard having a great time,” Galpin said. “It was of course the blessing of their Point Judith Fleet, so we said why don’t we do it here? We called the minister at Trinity and Ruth and I and launched it here. We got it going as a community event and it’s been a big success and I hope it has helped the boats that participate have better cruising and sailing this summer.”

The setting earned praise from State Sen. John McKinney.

“This is my hometown, it’s one of the most beautiful spots anywhere,” he said. “It’s great to see the community come together to honor those who came before us, who gave us the freedom to enjoy what we have today, so it’s just a wonderful day.”

Officiating at the blessing this year were the Rev. Leslie C. Smith and the Rev. Dawn Stegelmann of Trinity Episcopal Church, the Rev. Laura and the Rev. Paul Whitmore of Southport Congregational Church and Deacon Daniel Ianiello of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.

“Southport is fortunate and truly blessed to have people come out and recognize it and us and to bless our fleet. You can’t ask for anything better,” Probate Judge Daniel Caruso said.

“If Norman Rockwell needed a model for one of his works of art,” First Selectman Mike Tetreau said, “the Blessing of the Fleet in Southport would be it.”

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