Sipping champagne and contemplating lunch, a Santa Rosa couple Sunday afternoon took in the lively scene at the 37th annual Bodega Bay Fisherman's Festival.

"Oysters, that's next," said Candy Shannon, as she and longtime partner Michael Thompson stood in the warm sunshine looking out over the bay with their dog, Parker.

Since their first visit to the festival three years ago, the couple has made it an annual event they greatly anticipate.

"This is one of the most beautiful places in the world," said Thompson.

"And it's dog friendly," said Shannon.

The two-day festival celebrates the town, fishing, fishermen and life on the coast. Held on the edge of Bodega Bay at Westside Park, Sunday's activities included the annual blessing of the fleet. Brightly decorated fishing boats paraded out to the mouth of the bay, where their captains received a benediction intended to keep them safe at sea until they return with a bountiful catch.

By early afternoon a large crowd had gathered at the festival under perfectly clear blue skies.

It was the first time attending for Napa resident Coleen Giovannoni, who came with extended family to see a friend's band perform. She appreciated the mix of activities for both kids and adults.

"It's great. The kids are having a blast flying the kites," she said. "We went straight for the beer. I'm eyeing the fish tacos and oysters."

After kite-flying the kids were scoping out the nearby Sonoma County sheriff's helicopter and fire trucks.

"We're going there next," Giovannoni's sister, Aileen Savage of Napa assured the kids.

Historically, the two-day festival kicks off the start of the salmon season.

The season, however, has suffered severe setbacks in recent years. Regulators banned salmon fishing the past two years following dramatic declines in the number of chinook making their way upstream to spawn. This year a very limited commercial season was approved for this summer.

The festival is a fund-raiser for dozens of local charities, including schools and community groups.