The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, the civilian volunteer component of the United States Coast Guard, hosted its first Blessing of the Fleet at Lee’s Park Marina, in Mount Arlington, on Sunday May 23. In addition to barbecued food, the public was entertained with a live broadcast and music from radio stations WDHA and WMTR. The auxiliary had various booths and displays set up with information about boating safety and courses, and a special display dedicated to canoe and kayak use. The Auxiliary Chaplin, Scott Birdwell conducted an ecumenical blessing, followed by an aerial show of Coast Guard aviators flying above, while many coast guard vessels were docked and on display. A wreath was tossed into the lake in memory of fallen soldiers. Vice Flotilla Commander Arlene Petronaci was on deck to sing the National Anthem and a song she wrote entitled “Team Coast Guard.” “This is the first year for this event and we are thrilled to have such support from the community and excited to ‘bless’ this year’s boating season,” said Petronaci. The Auxiliary Coast Guard has been present on Lake Hopatcong for the past five years promoting and educating people about boat safety. The auxiliary works in cooperation with the State Police on Lake Hopatcong. According to event organizer and Auxiliary commander, Chris Scarlatta, “We do everything that the Coast Guard does with the exception of law enforcement; that is the job of the State Police. Our mission is vessel exams, public education, and boating certification courses.” Scarlatta is enthusiastic about a new program beginning in the fall called PIE, Partners in Education, when the auxiliary will take its boating-safety program into the schools. A remote-controlled electronic boat, with a friendly face and somewhat human characteristics, was present at the event and is used for such school programs. A highlight of the day was witnessing the demonstration of the power of a fireboat as it extinguished a vessel that was set on fire out on the lake. A communications trailer was on display and a stark reminder of the importance and need for the Coast Guard in the case of a national disaster or emergency. Another hit at the event was a member of the fire department in training, a Dalmatian named Hemi. For further information about the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary call 973-224-6265.