When it comes to matters of tradition, no single day in the event-filled weekend can equal the historical significance of Sunday. The keeping of these Sunday customs create a link between the humble origin of the festival in 1936 and the mammoth celebration into which it has grown.
It all began over 80 years ago, when the placid port at Morgan City and Berwick received the first boatload of jumbo shrimp, fresh from the deepest waters ever fished by a small boat. The very first celebration was held, appropriately on Labor Day, when members of the local unit of Gulf Coast Seafood Producers & Trappers Association, in recognition of the holiday, staged a friendly labor demonstration that has come to be known as the first festival. There were frog and alligator hunters, shrimpers, crab fishermen, dock workers and oystermen parading in the streets. Of course, it was not the grand procession that it is today, but it was the first street parade nonetheless.
In 1937, Paul Acklen LeBlanc, chairman of the festival committee, spearheaded the first Blessing of the Fleet upon Berwick Bay. The Blessing was held to ask that God's graces be bestowed upon the fishermen and their sturdy craft.
Shrimp and Petroleum Festival won Festival of the Year (Division III) in 2006, 2007, 2014 and 2015 and was once honored with the title of "Most Unusual Festival Name."1967 will always be remembered as a landmark year for the festival. This is the year that a marriage of shrimp and oil took place that would forever change the face of the festival. By this time, the petroleum industry had firmly implanted its roots into the area economy. The Festival was then known by its present-day name, the Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival. Despite the annexation of oil into its title, the festival was proud to be allowed to retain its seniority as the oldest state chartered harvest festival in Louisiana.
Now...the Festival recognizes the working men and women of both the seafood and petroleum industries, which are the economic lifeblood of the area. The Festival has been honoring those who work tirelessly through rain and shine...and sometimes even hurricanes...to provide the areas economic lifeblood for over half a century. The festival also emphasizes the unique way in which these two seemingly different industries work hand-in-hand culturally and environmentally in our area. It is designed in such a way that people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can enjoy and participate in festival events.
The present day Blessing of the Fleet and water parade highlights participating shrimp boats, pleasure craft and the biggest "muscle boats" of the oilpatch. Not to be missed is the toast between the King's Vessel and the Queen's Vessel - a breathtaking bow-to-bow "kiss" for the traditional champagne toast. Yes, it is a unique name...in fact, the festival was once honored with just that title..."The Most Unusual Name"...and...we are a unique place and unique people.