Resplendent statue of the Madonna in Pirie festival

PROCESSION: La Madonna is carried into the boat ramp area in Sunday's procession to St Anthony's Church, Solomontown. The statue is draped in a golden cape and jewellery.
PROCESSION: La Madonna is carried into the boat ramp area in Sunday's procession to St Anthony's Church, Solomontown. The statue is draped in a golden cape and jewellery.

The "golden" statue of the Madonna was guarded and revered in a ceremony on the Pirie River on Sunday.

The statue, draped in a gold-thread cape and 18-carat gold jewellery, was the centrepiece of the 90th Blessing of the Fleet.

Earlier, two Carabinieri or costumed Italian policemen guarded the statue in a procession from St Mark's Cathedral to the boat ramp.

The "officers", accompanied by six others from the Carabinieri Association, provided protection for the gilt offerings on the statue.

About 200 attended the ceremony at the boat ramp in which the statue was taken aboard Oran Caputo's boat to the river where fishermen, including 10 boats, were blessed by Fr Jimmy and Fr Massimilliana. Fr Massimilliana travelled from Molfetta, Italy - original home of many of our Italian community members - especially for the event.

Committee members of the Fremantle Blessing of the Fleet Nunzio and Marisa Pansini were also among the guests.

President of the Our Lady of Martyrs Port Pirie Italian Community Philip Amato said some special features had been celebrated to mark the 90th anniversary of the feast and blessing.

He said balloons had been let go at the cathedral as the statue came out while homing pigeons had been released when Our Lady of Martyrs came onto the boat.

An anniversary cake, displaying a picture of the Madonna, was donated by Woolworths and it was cut by Mayor Leon Stephens and Mr Amato.

Befitting the occasion, the Fishing Boat Museum was open. Filipino and Italian dancers and the St Mark's College Choir performed.

Wandering the crowd were children dressed in traditional Italian costume.

On the night before, the Blessing of the Fleet Debutante Ball was held at the Northern Festival Centre.

Ten debutantes were presented to Fr Massimilliana, Mayoress Lyn Akker and the president's wife, Tina Amato.

The ball was attended by 400 in what was a sold-out event.

Mr Amato said Fr Massimilliana had been invited to attend by clergy and the Italian community.

"Saturday and Sunday were very good days. We are very happy with it," he said.