shrimpboatEvery spring for the past 41 years, the sleepy Southern fishing town of Darien, Georgia, has come alive with the three-day festival for the Blessing of the Fleet.

Darien, with a population of around 2,000 people, is the second oldest city in Georgia. It was founded by Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highlanders — led by Lachlan McGillivray and Lacklan McIntosh — in 1736 near the site of an abandoned British military outpost, Fort King George.

Formerly one of the largest ports for shipping lumber, it has been a center for fishermen since the early 1900s. Once famous for its oysters, it is now best known as a shrimpers’ paradise.

Darien’s Blessing of the Fleet is believed to have originated when Portuguese fishermen moved to the area and brought the tradition with them. It is generally considered to be the largest ongoing festival of its kind on the East Coast.

Activities at this year’s event, held last weekend, ranged from shrimp-eating contests to nightly music on the bluff. Arts and crafts booths, kiddie rides, fireworks, and, of course, great shrimp were part of the fun. Local churches held barbecues and raffles, and arts groups offered red tag sales to raise money for their yearly activities, as local fishermen prepared for the shrimping season.

The small city teemed with locals and visitors ready to enjoy the fun and hospitality and eat great Georgia shrimp. And, even as much of the rest of Georgia was being drenched with rain, Darien sparkled with sunlight softened by cool breezes.

Photo by Martha Fagan

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Chrys B. Graham

Chrys B. Graham

Chrysis Boswell Graham lives in Atlanta and St. Simons Island, Georgia. She grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and also has lived in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Knoxville, Tennessee. For many years, she was a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines, a company that grew out of a crop-dusting service in Monroe, Louisiana.