What happens when you have to serve 200 pounds of shrimp — as well as seafood salad, oysters and gumbo — but have no running water or electricity?
You plan. And you check the traffic report.
The closing day of the Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration South went off seemingly without a hitch Saturday. The two-day birthday party for the state will close with a concert by The Band Perry. About 12,000 people turned out Saturday to enjoy the food, music and artifacts of historic significance.
Festival organizers estimated more than 25,000 people attended over the two days. There were 12 food vendors, educational activities and plenty of music — more than 25 performers on two stages — including the finale by Jaimoe’s Jassz Band, Paul Thorn and The Band Perry.
Visitors could walk on a giant map of the state or play tic-tac-toe with a Navy SEAL diver in a tank of water. All three state universities, along with some private schools, had booths and Gulfport’s Seabee Base kicked off Navy Week with a display of the machinery the Construction Battalions use, with Seabees on hand to show children how it all works.
Todd Rosetti of Quality Seafood in Biloxi had the task of catering for the festival’s sponsors and dignitaries, including Gov. Phil Bryant and Sen. Roger Wicker.
Although catering is nothing new for Quality Seafood — they’ve been doing catering through Rosetti’s Cafe for years — owner Todd Rosetti said he is used to having at least two things at catering sites: running water and electricity. But those weren’t available to him in the area of Centennial Plaza where he was set up to serve the celebration’s VIPs.
“When I was asked to do this, I didn’t know how I could possibly pull it off,” he said. “We wanted to have the same quality of food that we are known for at the cafe. I didn’t want to sacrifice the quality of our product.”
So he did what anyone in his situation would do — he plotted and planned until he developed a system to compensate for the lack of utilities.
“We brought our catering truck and our refrigerated truck, and trucked in water,” he said. “It took about two weeks’ worth of planning to get it down.”
He said they were also bringing in items from his shop in Biloxi.
“We had to get the timing down on this and avoid the major traffic because we want the food to be hot and delicious when it goes on the buffet,” Rosetti said. “So far, we haven’t had any problems.”
Festival organizer Rebecca Kajdan said she wanted people such as Bryant to have some familiar Coast favorites.
“We wanted our guests to feel like they were on the Coast in the hospitality room and Quality Seafood is such a familiar brand in South Mississippi,” she said.
On Friday and Saturday, Rosetti said he served seafood such as fried and boiled shrimp, seafood salad and fried oysters, as well as red beans and rice and seafood gumbo.
“We’ve served more than 500 pounds of boiled shrimp and about 150 pounds of fried shrimp in two lunches,” he said.
On Saturday, children and their parents danced on the grass near the stage. Visitors could stroll among displays set up by South Mississippi cities and counties and their respective historical societies. Jefferson Davis, 19th-century occupant of Beauvoir and his wife, Varina, strolled the grounds.
Three-year-old Alina Muthuveeran struck a pose at one of the photo booths with her parents, Marlon and Sonia. Marlon Muthuveeran is stationed now at Keesler Air Force Base with the 82st Medical Group, but he said he’s lived in 35 countries. Mississippi ranks high on his list of happy places and he said he may even retire in the Magnolia State.
Among the performers was University of Southern Mississippi graduate Jonathan McLeran, who played drums with the Navy Band Southeast’s Deckplate Brass as his parents, Warren and Janet Porter of Jackson proudly looked on.
The celebration was the first of three scheduled around the state in 2017, culminating in opening ceremonies Dec. 9 of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi, being built in Jackson.