FREMANTLE’S iconic Blessing of the Fleet is back this year after last year’s was cancelled over Covid fears.
Festival committee president John Minutillo said following the break, this year’s Blessing and parade on Sunday October 24 would be a return to basics with a focus on celebrating Italian culture’s integration into Australia.
“I think the real success is that we are going to do it, and what we want to do is just tell the public ‘hey, we’re back’ and encourage them to come along and see this great Fremantle tradition,” Mr Minutillo said.
While it is a religious festival at heart Mr Minutillo says it’s as much about a celebration of culture for people of all persuasions.
“It just think it’s a really special day, when you look around and you see the quality of people that are walking around – the young families with kids pushing prams.
“And, more importantly, it really shows what a great success story Australia is; Australians were wary of us when we first arrived, and we would have been the same, for sure, but they accepted us; they accepted our culture, they accepted our food.”
Mr Minutello says older Italian migrants often spoke about how they couldn’t believe their luck when the huge gamble of sailing halfway around the world to an unknown country they’d been at war with just a few years earlier, paid off.
“Many of our parents were able to come to Australia as refugees after the war, and they were able to start up businesses without having to pay someone protection, without having to pay off the local cops, without have to pay off this and that.”
The return of the festival marks its 75th anniversary, and Mr Minutillo says in these days of manufactured authenticity, giving children the opportunity to experience something genuine was really heartening.
The Blessing of the Fleet starts with an 8.30am Mass and Communion in honour of Our Lady of Capo D’Orlando at St Patrick’s Basilica, followed by a Solemn Mass by Rev Justin Bianchini, emeritus bishop at 9.30am.
The big procession will start from the Basilica on Adelaide Street from 2pm and wind its way down to Fishing Boat Harbour where it will be blessed by the bishop at 3.30pm.
At 4.30pm there’s a kids’ fireworks display at the Fremantle Esplanade Reserve before the parade returns to the Basilica at 5pm.
The big fireworks display, back on the agenda after Fremantle council backed down from cutting its funding and opted for a review after three years instead, will be on at 8pm.