Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Family Stuff

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Family Stuff

Article excerpt

Watching The Boats Go By

There's nothing tame about most parades, but there is one that has a gentleness about it. That's the long line of boats that sail past Our Lady of the Rivers Shrine at Portage des Sioux, Mo., for the annual blessing of the fleet, which will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Every year, families come in droves (some in cars) toting lawn chairs and coolers to sit on the banks of the Mississippi River and watch the colorful flotilla. Hundreds of vessels, from luxury cruisers and runabouts to stately sailboats and houseboats, make the 13-mile voyage downstream from the Yacht Club of St. Louis Harbor to the 26-foot-high statue of Mary.

The theme for this event is "Let's Just Decorate!" To the imaginative, that could mean anything. For instance, in 1991, when there was a circus theme, participants dressed themselves in everything from orange-haired clown costumes to glittering trapeze tights. One bozo walked away with all the bananas by wearing a gorilla suit.

In 1992, this major inland water event celebrated the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the New World. Naturally, Christopher Columbus made an appearance, but so did an astronaut just to show how far mankind had come.

Although this is the 38th blessing of the fleet, the event actually began in 1951 after Portage des Sioux was spared from creeping floodwater. The pastor of St. Francis Church had gathered parishioners to pray for relief. After the water receded, he had planned to erect a 3-foot statue alongside the church as a symbol of appreciation.

When boaters heard of it, they thought it more fitting to have a larger statue on the riverbank. The idea grew, and the statue that was finally erected is the world's fifth largest of Mary.

And it was after the statue was erected that the blessing of the fleet became such a popular annual event. Dive-In Movies

G-rated flicks are always a good idea. However, a few communities with public pools have added to that by bringing in movies that the entire family can enjoy between dips in the water. …

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