OCEAN SPRINGS -- The 1699 Historical Society hosted its annual reenactment of Pierre Le Moyne, sieur d'Iberville's landing on the Coast on Saturday to commemorate the 317th anniversary of the French settlement.
The Weekend of Discovery celebration began Friday evening with a reception and presentation of the reenactment participants. Saturday morning, the historical society held a 5K race on Front Beach, followed by a 1-mile kids race organized in conjunction with the Mississippi Gulf Coast YMCA and Biloxi/Ocean Springs Junior Auxiliary.
Attendees then took to the water for a Discovery Regatta hosted by the Ocean Springs Yacht Club. The regatta is a two-day event that will resume at 11 a.m. Sunday. The day also featured a children's pet parade and an awards luncheon.
The pinnacle of the celebration began at 4 p.m. with the reenactment, which featured amateur actors dressed as either Native Americans or 18th-century French explorers.
The scene portrayed Iberville and younger brother Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville leading a group of explorers along the beach until they encountered a Native American village.
The natives beat on drums to warn others in the village of the approaching strangers. The encounter nearly resulted in bloodshed, but both parties eventually agreed on peace, exchanging gifts and smoking a "peace pipe."
Iberville named the land Louisiana and after he found a deepwater anchorage at Ship Island, the French conducted operations to reconnoiter the coast from Florida to New Orleans. Iberville established a military defensive position, Fort Maurepas, on the shores of what is now Ocean Springs.
The tribes in the area were called Bylocchy, Pascoboula, and Moctoby. The name Bylocchy or Biloxy became synonymous with the French settlement at Fort Maurepas, and later became spelled Biloxi.
Portraying Iberville on Saturday was David Reynolds, who said the reenactment "brings to life" a historic event for Ocean Springs.
"It's a good picture of history," he said. "There's a lot of community pride in our French heritage."
Alongside Reynolds was Randy Bosarge, who portrayed Bienville. Bosarge actually has a deep personal connection to the historical event as he is a direct descendant of one of the French settlers.
"My family actually helped settle this area," he said. "I had ancestors come with the landing party and after.
"It was great to be a part of something that's important to our community."