September 23, 2015
By Mary Perez at Sun Herald
The influx of Cruisin' The Coast visitors each October increases tourism at an otherwise slow time of the year. The Coast Mardi Gras celebration and Cruisin' the Coast made the American Bus Association's Top 100 attractions list for 2016.
Two of the favorite events in South Mississippi -- Cruisin' The Coast in the fall and Carnival season on the Coast -- have landed on the American Bus Association's coveted list of Top 100 Events in North America for 2016.
The selection was made by a tourism-industry selection committee and the list is published as a supplement to the September/October issue of Destinations magazine.
"We have strived for over 100 years to create a fun, family-oriented celebration, which is grounded in tradition while always remaining fresh and exciting," said Steve Polk, Gulf Coast Carnival Association captain.
The largest and one of the oldest Mardi Gras organizations in South Mississippi, GCCA presents a coronation tableau at the Coast Coliseum and a parade in downtown Biloxi that attracts huge crowds.
The 2016 season will kick off Jan. 5 with a Twelfth Night celebration at the Biloxi Mardi Gras Museum. After myriad balls, dozens of parades and more than a few helpings of king cake, the season will come to an end with parades on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 9.
For Cruisin' The Coast, "the stars are the cars," said Woody Bailey, Cruisin' executive director. The annual celebration stretches across the three Coast counties, bringing an economic impact of more than $22 million to the state and extending the tourist season.
This is the 34th year for the Top 100 Events in North America list, which began as a way for motorcoach operators to add new events to their itineraries.
Studies by researchers at Dunham and Associates show an overnight visit by a motorcoach group can contribute up to $25,000 to the local economy for lodging, meals, admissions, shopping, souvenirs, services, fees and taxes.
Being on the ABA list gives the Mississippi Coast "an important boost in visibility among professional tour planners," said Peter Pantuso, ABA's president and CEO