The annual snowbird migration is hitting its peak.
And that’s good news for RV campgrounds along the Coast. But casinos, grocery stores, gas stations — just about every business has a chance to cash in because many of them stay for months at a time.
Everyone in Cajun RV Park in Biloxi is a snowbird and almost all of the park’s 130 sites are filled.
Gulfport’s Gulf Haven Campground has an increase of about 7 percent over last year’s snowbird crowd. It’s likely the newest campground — which started in 1930s as Green Gables Cottages but after a couple of hurricanes became Burns Mobile Park then a few years after Katrina began anew as an RV park.
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Gulf Haven has a majority of its visitors from Canada but has some from New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama.
And with temperatures about 50 degrees warmer than the frigid north, it doesn’t take a lot of advertising to get them here.
Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, the coastwide tourism agency, doesn’t just target snowbirds, it targets the Midwest year-round.
It aims to reach 8 million adults over the age of 50 by focusing on Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Cleveland-Akron, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek in Michigan.
A promotion the agency did last year with Sun Country Airlines from Sept. 3 to Nov. 19 helped the airline fill 76 percent of its seats on flights from Minneapolis to Gulfport.
But it’s not just the weather that brings them back. Many have tried other winter destinations — Florida and Arizona mostly — but South Mississippi has a couple of attractions those places can’t match.
“We used to come here for a week then we’d go to Florida or Arizona,” said Adele Lass, who with her husband, Jim, has been fleeing the Wisconsin winters for 25 years. “It’s closer to Wisconsin and it’s handier.”
Her husband says the Cajun park is close to everything, particularly hospitals and doctors.
“If you’re in the Phoenix area, there’s a lot more traffic and congestion,” he said. “Every time you went for groceries it was 10 or 15 miles and lots of traffic.
They live the rest of the year in Holeman, a city of about 8,000 people north of LaCrosse. “We’re not used to a lot of traffic.”
He said they discovered the Mississippi Coast in 1995. Their destination was Naples, Fla., but they decided to come straight south to U.S. 90 and take that route all along the Gulf Coast.
“We stayed here maybe two nights and on our way home we stayed a couple more, and we found it very pleasant,” he said.
“Everything is easy, your groceries or your hardware. And the food, you’ve got, what, 50 restaurants within five miles.”
They walk every morning along the beach, which is a short walk south of the park on 90 just before Veterans Avenue.
And they like the people.
“Southern people are so friendly,” Adele Lass said. “We love the Southern people.”
The weather is never far from the minds of the RV park inhabitants, even on a 50-degree afternoon. Back home in Alexandria, Minn., Nettie Bourdeaux said, it was about 50 degrees colder. Then there’s the scenery here.
“The Gulf, when you drive out it’s there,” she said. “I like the boardwalk. It’s just convenient for everything. Close to the casinos.”