End of an Era

Dated: 03/04/2019

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During the “pink gold rush” of the 1950s, over 200 shrimp boats called San Carlos and Estero Islands their home port.  Hurricane Donna swept across the islands in 1960 destroying many of the shrimp packing houses that were never rebuilt.  The hurricane, rising gas prices, imported shrimp, and decreased demand for shrimp all contributed to the decline of the shrimping industry in Florida.  Today, however, shrimping is an important part of our economy bringing in over $100 million each year.  About 40 shrimp boats still consider San Carolos Island their home port.

The Shrimp Festival has been part of island life since the 1950’s but the Blessing of the Fleet has been discontinued.  For over 50 years, St. Raphael’s Church took the lead in planning the Blessing.  When San Carlos Island was home to 200 boats, the Blessing of the Fleet was one of the highlights of the Shrimp Festival.  However, over the years, as the number of boats docking on San Carlos Island began to dwindle, fewer and fewer shrimp boats were participating in the Blessing.  The high cost of fuel also contributed to the decline in participation.  The church finally decided to take the Blessing to the shrimp docks, so the boats would not have to leave port.  Although the Blessing continued in different forms until about five years ago, there was never enough interest to sustain the tremendous effort it took to put on the ceremony, so the church leadership decided to discontinue the tradition.

 

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Ellie Bunting

Ellie has returned to real estate sales after spending the last 40 years teaching English at Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers She has teamed up with her husband, Bob, who has been a....

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