Arts & Culture

Cruisin’ The Coast is coming early this year. Here’s what’s new and what’s changed.

Wearing the banner of the USA Today best car show in the country, Cruisin’ The Coast rolls into South Mississippi early this year with 8,000 antique and classic cars, eight days of events and a few surprises.

The largest event in Mississippi, Cruisin’ starts Sept. 30 and runs through Oct. 7.

When pre-registration ended Aug. 15, Cruisin’ already had 7,165 vehicles registered. That’s about 50 more than this time last year, said Woody Bailey, executive director of Cruisin’ The Coast.

“We’re on a record-breaking pace,” he said, with registrations in from 44 states, Canada, Germany and Australia in this 22nd year.

Eleven of the 12 Coast cities and all of the casinos will host events or entertainment, starting early in the day with breakfasts and block parties and lighting up the night with flame throwing competitions and The Beach Boys and other stars. Even the Rat Pack will make an appearance this year.

Here’s what’s new and changed for this 22nd year:

  • Gov. and First Lady Phil and Deborah Bryant will host Field of Wheels exotic car show at MGM Park on Saturday, Oct. 6. The fundraising event from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. is free for spectators and will have special guest judges checking out the cars.

  • Pascagoula will again be a host city but the venue will be near the water instead of in downtown. “Everybody loved Beach Park in the past,” Bailey said, particularly due to its many shade trees and views of the water.

  • Music from the ‘50s and ‘60s has long been the era of entertainment from Cruisin’ The Coast. This year, organizers and the casinos are adding ‘70s and ‘80s classic rock to the mix.

  • TV hosts and car celebrities Cristy Lee and Courtney Hansen will be back this year to meet and greet their fans. Joining them are Amanda and Joe Martin from Texas who host Iron Resurrection on Velocit. The Martins are bringing a cruiser.
  • Dennis Gage won’t be able to attend this year but will be filming again for “My Classic Car” show in 2019, Bailey says.

  • In addition to selling a bevy of Chevy Corvettes and other antique and classic cars, Vitari Auction will add to its draw at the Coast Coliseum as title sponsor of swap meet this year.

  • Cruisin’ The Coast has spread out from Biloxi and Gulfport to across the three Coastal counties and organizers are putting out a call for volunteers. Those who want to join the “Cruisin’ Crew” can sign up online or call the Cruisin’ office at 228-385-3847.

  • Cruise Central remains at Centennial Plaza on U.S. 90 in Gulfport, where a Holiday Inn is under construction on the west end of the site. The developers acquired 7 acres on the east side that Bailey said will be open for parking.

  • U.S. 90 is under contract to be paved from Bay St. Louis to Biloxi, but Gabe Faggard, area engineer for Mississippi Department of Transportation, said construction and lane closures will stop for the week. The exception is near Beau Rivage Casino and MGM Park, where work will continue on the pedestrian crosswalk.

  • Street Rodder Road Tour will swing by Cruisin’ The Coast, spending the week and making stops along the way at many of the activities.

Mary Perez; @MaryPerezSH