Cruisin' the Coast

New for Cruisin’ The Coast 2019: A shined-up Cruise Central, freshly paved US 90 and more

The 23rd Cruisin’ The Coast rolls into South Mississippi a little later than usual and already is off to a fast start.

From Oct. 6-13, thousands of cars and their admirers will fill South Mississippi with color, retro music and fun.

“We always end on the Sunday before Columbus Day,” said Woody Bailey, longtime executive director of Cruisin’. That way people have an extra day to travel home on the holiday weekend.

Last year saw a record 8,444 vehicles registered. Already this year, 7,325 were signed up when registration ended in mid-August, which is 160 ahead of this time last year. Bailey said about 1,100 of those registered are first-timers.

The biggest change this year is to Cruise Central. The grounds of Centennial Plaza have been used for years, with event-goers enjoying the shade of the oak trees and breeze off the beach without being able to enter the long-empty buildings.

But this year, the century-old buildings have been restored into two hotels, restaurants, a water playground with a lazy river and a fountain that dances to music.

“It’s a beautiful property,” Bailey said, and it will accommodate both those staying at the resort and those who are just cruisin’ through.

“Cruisers will come in the front gate and turn to the right,” he said. Guests will be directed to the left.

Spectator parking will be just outside the fence on the east side of Centennial Plaza. Signs and volunteers will direct traffic. The only spectator parking inside the fence will be for handicapped parking.

“We should have about the same amount of parking as in the past,” he said, especially with many of the cruisers and spectators staying at the resort.

Tents will be set up on the east side, in the oak tree area, and food will be available on site.

The View’s even better

Gulfport always has events to open Cruisin’, and this year the downtown is getting a head start.

View the Cruise is expanding to two days, kicking off on Saturday, Oct. 5, the night before the official opening of Cruisin’.

The cruisers and spectators are arriving much earlier each year, said Laurie Toups, Gulfport Main Street director. “We found they’re coming in as early as Wednesday and Thursday before the weekend even starts,” she said.

The Gulfport Police Department is sponsoring the inaugural Car-dboard Cruisers on Saturday for kids and adults, with cruisers made out of at least 75% cardboard. They have categories for best stroller or wagon, elementary through high school cruiser, most original, best business, best adult best in show and even best wheel chair cruiser to welcome all ages. Parade lineup is at 4:30 p.m. at 1419 27th Ave. and the parade is from 4-6 p.m.

Then at 7 p.m. Saturday, Amanda Shaw & the Cute Guys and Rockin’ Dopsie & Zydeco Twisters will perform a free concert on the main stage, Toups said.

New for the Sunday’s View the Cruise are Vendor World, with more than 30 vendors throughout downtown and free shuttle rides to the venue from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m., provided by Coast Transit Authority.

More new features

Here are some of the other new things for this year’s Cruisin’ The Coast:

U.S. 90 is freshly paved across Harrison County. “We talked to MDOT and there will not be any construction the week of Cruisin,” Bailey said.

The D’Iberville venue move to Scarlet Pearl Casino on Central Avenue. “We think that’s going to provide us with a lot more room,” Bailey said. Vendors, food and music will still be part of the event, and cruisers will be able to play a round at Lava Links Mini Golf if they choose.

Members of a dozen local car clubs supply hundreds of volunteer to direct traffic and help in other ways for the largest event in Mississippi. The block party across the three Coast counties has gotten so big, that even more people are needed. “We need help,” Bailey said, and is asking for volunteers from the community. They can go to the Cruisin’ The Coast website and click on Cruisin Krew to sign up for the areas they’d like to work, or call 228-385-3847.

Joe & Amanda Martin with Martin Brothers Customs/Iron Resurrection will be grand marshals for the Long Beach Parade on Monday, Oct. 7. Also returning are the Cruisin’ leg of Street Rodder Road Tour will be back again this year, with the addition of the Vintage Air Road Tour. “Those are national tours,” Bailey said, and provide great national exposure to Cruisin’.

Dennis Gage will be back at Cruisin’ The Coast this year after missing last year. He’ll be in Bay St. Louis and Ocean Springs and possibly a mystery location, shooting a segment for his “My Classic Car” show.

This year’s feature car actually is a black truck — a ’68 Chevy C-10 CST called “Shadow.” It is the Make-A-Wish raffle vehicle for 2019 and has a 350 V8, 350 auto transmission, power steering and brakes, air conditioning and a LED lighting package. Raffle tickets are $10 or 3 for $25. Order forms can be mailed to Cruisin’ The Coast, or tickets will be available at Cruise Central.

One thing that hasn’t changed for this year’s Cruisin’ is the executive director still hasn’t bought a cruiser. “Still cruisin’ in my Tahoe,” Bailey jokes. “I will be shopping — I’m always looking,” he said. I just haven’t found exactly what I want.” Vicari Auctions is expected to bring more than 700 cars to sell at the Oct. 10-12 auction at the Coast Coliseum and Convention Center.

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Mary Perez is the business and casino reporter for the Sun Herald and also writes about Biloxi, jobs and the new restaurants and development coming to the Coast. She is a fourth-generation journalist.