Sunny skies and warm autumn temperatures usher in the North Carolina Seafood Festival Friday at noon on the Morehead City waterfront.

Although last year’s festival was canceled because of Hurricane Florence, organizers of this year’s festival are calling it the 33rd festival. Aside from noting this year’s seafood festival with an asterisk to explain that the 2018 N.C. Festival — which would have been the 32nd — was not held because of Hurricane Florence, record keeping notwithstanding, “The North Carolina Seafood Festival,” a 20-page special section with all kinds of information about the festival was in Wednesday’s paper and will be available at some spots at the festival.

In “A note from the chairman” on page 4 of the special section, 2019 Festival Chairman Mitch Gay pointed out that this year’s festival’s “footprint will be slightly different with rides and our Chef’s Tent finding new homes this year to better maximize the utility of the festival’s footprint.

“Additionally,” he continued, “the festival has worked to highlight our waterfront spaces and parks by placing our primary musical and culinary attractions in Jaycee Park, Tournament Central and Katherine Davis Park.”

The main purpose of the N.C. Seafood Festival is to impart information about North Carolina’s fresh, local seafood. It also points out our total reliance on commercial fishing and commercial fishermen and women, who work tirelessly to obtain the fresh, local seafood we enjoy.

While many festivals primarily have commercial vendors, the N.C. Seafood Festival strives for nonprofits as vendors to help them generate funds. So besides promoting awareness of the benefits and taste of fresh seafood, the festival serves as the largest annual fundraising event for many county churches, school groups and other community nonprofits that operate booths and parking lots. Since its inception in 1986, these nonprofit local charities have realized more than $2 million.

Free parking is available on city streets and at the N.C. State Port from 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Shuttles, also free, will transport those to the festival. For more information on parking and shuttle rides, visit ncseafoodfestival.org.

An annual event, the Blessing of the Fleet, sponsored by the Carteret County Fisherman’s Association and the N.C. State Port of Morehead City, will take place at 10 a.m. Sunday.

WTKF-FM 107.1 will broadcast the ceremony live beginning at 9:30 a.m.

The Blessing of the Fleet is a non-denominational religious service to thank God and commercial fishermen with prayer, music, Scripture, poetry, responsive readings, a morning message and a commercial fishing vessel processional with memorials for fishermen who have died.

The Blessing of the Fleet also strives to teach the public about local heritage, traditions, commercial fishing families and the contribution commercial fishing has made and continues to make on the economy of eastern North Carolina,

Music will be provided by the Davis First Baptist Church Men’s Choir, accompanied by pianist Tracy Merkley.

A free booklet, provided by the N.C. Seafood Festival, including a list of deceased fishermen, fish house workers and others involved in the fishing industry, will be available with all the particulars of the service.

From games, amusement attractions, vendors and the Blessing of the Fleet, the Seafood Festival is wonderful.

We welcome everyone and hope you enjoy yourselves and North Carolina’s exceptional seafood.

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