Harrison County

Blue Angels are coming back to Biloxi, but this time with a better view

Seven years is long enough between air shows, Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich declared in December as the city became host of a Navy Blue Angels show on July 21-22.

But this time, it won't be at Keesler Air Force Base. The main event will be at Harrah's Gulf Coast Casino's Great Lawn, and anyone along the beach for miles will be able to see the aerial acrobatics.

"What makes this show different from any other show that's been held in Biloxi is that it will be directly over the water," said Vincent Creel, the city's public affairs manager. The Blue Angels' home base is in Pensacola, Florida, and locals and tourists often see the jets fly over the beach.

Gilich wanted to tap into that excitement, Creel said, and have them fly over Biloxi's beach.

"Spectators will have unobstructed views, and those at Harrah's will have front-row seats," he said.

Harrah's Gulf Coast Casino and The Blind Tiger restaurant at the site are title sponsors for the air show that will be headquartered on the waterfront at Harrah's Great Lawn.

Look to the heavens

"It’s going to be a fun, magical two-day event,” said Shay Smith, advertising and communications manager for Harrah's.

In addition to the Blue Angels, spectators will see the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team jump out of aircraft over their heads and land amid the crowd on The Great Lawn. The Aeroshell Aerobatic Team will perform loops and rolls in close formation in T-6 planes, and other solo performers, military aircraft flyovers and demonstrations that will be announced closer to the event.

Keesler Air Force Base last hosted the Blue Angels in 2011 and may host the Air Force Thunderbirds in April 2019.

But instead of going onto Keesler base for this year's show, spectators will watch the Blue Angels from The Great Lawn, on miles of beaches and from their boats on the water or anchored at nearby Deer Island.

The Great Lawn debuted in 2014 and has been the site of a variety of concerts and events. "We are proud to continue upon our commitment of The Great Lawn as a community venue once again," Smith said.

A community event

The show is free and more than 100,000 people are expected to watch over the two days.

Creel said the Biloxi Police Department will work up a traffic and parking plan before the event.

Abundant vacant land in East Biloxi will provide parking and viewing spots, along with four resorts — Harrah's, Golden Nugget Casino and Palace Casinos and Margaritaville Resort Biloxi — where people can park and stay overnight or for the weekend.

Biloxi paid a $25,000 fee to host the air show, Creel said, and it's being organized by David Schultz Airshows, which organized the last one at Keesler in 2011. The company has been in business for 20 years and organized more than 400 shows, said Mark Boyd, project development manager with Schultz.

He is signing up sponsors and vendors to take part in the event and help defray costs for Biloxi. Sponsorships go for about $500 for hanging a sign or banner up to $24,000 for a premium sponsor, he said.

Spectators will be able to buy food and beverages from about 20-30 gourmet food trucks. Boyd said he envisions the food coming from local restaurants, New Orleans and other areas.

“We wanted to give spectators a huge variety of dining options, and food trucks is the way to do it,” he said. Those who want information on becoming a sponsor or vendor should contact him at 407-883-1628 or mboyd@america.net.

Other street vendors and performers will be staged up and down the public display areas along Beach Boulevard, Creel said.

Mary Perez: 228-896-2354, @MaryPerezSH