Advance planning can make or break a good time.
With more than 12,000 people preparing to pass a good time at the two-day Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration South, which starts at 9 a.m. Friday, here is what you need to know to have the best possible time at the state’s 200th birthday party.
“There’s one way in and one way out,” Gulfport police Sgt. Josh Bromen said of the bash billed as The Party of the Century. “People need to come in off of Arkansas and Texas avenues from Highway 90, where they will be directed to free public parking and we will be basically parking the cars tip-to-tail in a very organized manner.”
Bromen said after the vehicles are parked, attendees will then walk along beside U.S. 90 to the admission area.
“We have a barricaded area, so they will protected from the traffic on Highway 90 and they will walk the path to the pedestrian entrance in Centennial Plaza,” he said.
For those not able to make the jaunt down Beach Boulevard, Bromen said transportation will be available.
“Coast Transit Authority will be running a shuttle from the CTA parking garage to Centennial Plaza for those with special needs, including those that are disabled, as well as seniors,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s still going to drop you off at the pedestrian entrance.”
There will be traffic
And with thousands of free tickets distributed for Saturday’s concert, Coast residents can expect traffic delays on U.S. 90 around Centennial Plaza.
“Between Cruisin’ The Coast and spring break and the other events on the Coast, this community should know what to do — take Pass Road or the interstate or even some of the roads north on Highway 49 to circumvent the traffic,” Bromen said. “Highway 90 is always the preferred route for our visitors.”
After 5 p.m. Saturday, there will be no re-entry into Centennial Plaza.
“To minimize traffic, we’re not going to allow people back in after 5 p.m.,” he said. “You can come after 5 p.m., but if you have a wristband on, you can’t come and go after 5 p.m.”
What not to bring
Bromen said he hopes everyone who attends the concert has a good time. Being familiar with what you can and can’t bring, he said, could ensure things go smoothly for all involved.
“You can’t bring the family pet — only ADA (service animals) will be allowed,” he said.
Food and drinks may not be brought in, but city spokesman Chris Vignes said several vendors will be selling a variety of food and drinks on the grounds.
“You may want to bring some cash, but we will have ATMs on site,” Vignes said. “You also can’t bring any alcoholic beverages on the property but there will be vendors selling beer.”
City within a city
Preparing for the largest lawn party in South Mississippi is no small feat. It has taken months of planning and hundreds of volunteers.
“We’ve literally built a city within a city at Centennial Plaza,” Vignes said.
He said the chapel has been converted into a welcome center, complete with an old post office.
“We will be unveiling the state’s bicentennial stamp on Friday,” he said. “It’s a painting of the hands of blues musician Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes, who is also one of our performers.”
Another attraction Vignes said is unique will be the display of Mississippi’s Constitution and the state’s flag from 1817.
“We’re very proud to be able to share these items with South Mississippi,” he said. “The state will be hosting three celebrations, and it says a lot that Gulfport was chosen to host the first party — and it’s at the site where the state’s centennial celebration was scheduled to take place but it didn’t because of World War I.”
Making it happen
On Wednesday, volunteers and paid professionals spent most of the day setting up the stage on which nearly a dozen musical acts will entertain guests over the two-day celebration, including the Coast Big Band on Friday and The Band Perry on Saturday.
The staging rig was brought in on two 18-wheelers. Buck Alman, who is overseeing the stage setup, said it weighs more than 5,600 pounds.
“The stage is 164 feet wide and 76 feet deep,” he said.
And for those worried they may not be able to see the stage, Alman said not to worry.
“We will have video monitors on both sides of the stage,” he said. “Each screen is 24 by 12 feet.”
Celebration ‘yes and no’ items
Beach blankets and towels
Low-back folding chairs
Backpacks and purses (smaller than 20 by 15 by 9 inches)
Bug spray (non-aerosol)
Smoking except in designated areas
Air horns or megaphones
Outside food or beverages
Animals (except service animals)
Containers of liquid except one factory-sealed bottle of water up to 2 liters
Bota bags (wine skins)
Cameras with detachable lenses
Camping tents, canopies or shade structures of any kind
Flags or flagpoles
Professional audio-recording equipment
Tailgating, grilling or barbecue equipment
Skateboards, skates or hoverboards
A complete list can be found at ms200south.org.