A rite of springtime in Southport Village on Saturday will feature two parades -- one by land and one by sea. The annual Southport Street Parade will step off at 11 a.m. from the Southport Congregational Church parking lot on Pequot Avenue and end at Southport's Lower Wharf, where the Blessing of the Fleet will take place starting at about noon.
Grand marshals of the parade will be Greg and Lori Peck, owners of Spic and Span Market. Spic and Span Market has been a Southport institution since 1928. 2014 marks the Peck’s 30th anniversary as owners.
"It is an honor to have Greg and Lori Peck as our grand marshals," Timothy Russell of the Russell Agency in Southport said in a news release issued by parade organizers. "The grand marshal is chosen by committee to recognize a person or persons whose conduct and actions show a deep commitment to the Village of Southport. The Pecks are an integral part of the Southport community. The Pecks join a long line of notable grand marshals like Hoyt "Hop" Perry, Dr. Bill Kueffner and Medal of Honor recipient Mike Daly."
The fife-and-drum corps and pipe band will include the New York Ancients Fife & Drum Band, Bluff Point Quahog Digger Band of New England, Junior Colonials Fife & Drum from Westbrook, Stony Creek Fife & Drum Corps, Mattituck Drum Band and the Fairfield Gaelic Pipe Band.
In addition to the bands, there will be many classic cars provided by the CT Seaport Car Club as well as many local groups participating.
Blessing of the Fleet ceremonies are an annual tradition that began centuries ago in Mediterranean fishing communities. Past commodore of the Pequot Yacht Club, Steve Galpin, initiated the local Blessing of the Fleet in Southport Harbor almost 22 years ago.
"Our hope was, and is, that the Blessing of the Fleet would lead to safer boating in the summer for all who participate," Galpin said.
At least 50 vessels are expected to pass by the Lower Wharf during the Blessing of the Fleet ceremony. The boats will be blessed by five local clergymen, the Revs. Leslie C. Smith and Dawn Stegelmann of Trinity Episcopal Church, the Revs. Laura and Paul Whitmore of Southport Congregational Church, and Deacon Daniel Ianiello of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.
With mastheads festooned with decorative signal flags, sailboats, motorboats and sometimes kayaks and canoes, pass under a giant arc of water pumped across Southport Harbor by a local fire engine. The boats will all be blessed by the clergy posted at the Lower Wharf's fishing dock.
Before the parade and fleet blessing, Eagle Hill School, 214 Main St. along the line of march, will serve a pancake breakfast starting at 8:30 a.m. Southport Congregational Church and Trinity Episcopal Church will be offering treats, while at the Lower Wharf the Southport volunteer firefighters will be serving hot dogs, with voluntary donations encouraged, and Parker Rodgers will supply popsicles.