Crusin’ the Coast – Back for it’s 14th year and better than ever!

By: Nancy Marchbanks
A thing of beauty is a joy forever…and when thousands of classic cars stream into the Gulf Coast…it is indeed a thing of beauty. Cruisin’ The Coast is back again, and it never fails to take your breath away. For many of us, it’s a trip down memory lane. Cruisin’ The Coast is always filled with fun and excitement from beginning to end, and this year…it’s going to be even more so. Once again, Woody Bailey, Vice Chairman and Executive Director of Cruisin’, has put together a week long extravaganza in honor of classic cars, hot rods, and muscle cars. As of mid September, when registration was closed there were over 3,600 vehicles registered to participate. It is not unusual to have over 1,500 additional cars register when the event begins. People are coming from all over the country (37 states and Canada) to display their prize automobiles and attend Cruisin’ The Coast this year.
Mr. Jose Sierra has been showing off his gorgeous, 1965 Mustang for the past 6 Cruisin events. He purchased the car from a wrecking yard in 1974, and gave it to his brother who had always wanted that particular model. The two brothers had the car fully restored to its original splendor, which was completed in 1977. The car had been kept in Puerto Rico. While Jose was stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana, he heard about Cruisin’ The Coast from a buddy who was also a classic car enthusiast. His friend had attended before and told Jose how great it was. Immediately Jose made arrangements to have the Mustang shipped from Puerto Rico, and brought it down to South Mississippi. Sierra said, “I keep coming year after year because I love the area and love the event. I am stationed in Hawaii now, but I am taking my vacation on the Gulf Coast, to attend Cruisin’ The Coast 14…I wouldn’t miss it!”
Smokin’ The Lake, which is a world championship drag boat race, will kick off the week long fun on the weekend of October 1st, 2nd, and 3rd at The Dock in Gulfport. Traditionally, the first “Cruise In” is held at the Hardy Court Plaza in Gulfport on Sunday. A brand new event has been added to follow the Hardy Court gathering. Downtown Gulfport is ready to show off its beautiful new face with a huge block party for all the cruisers. “We want our visitors to see all the work that has been done downtown, all the improvements to the buildings, and to visit all the great new restaurants,” Woody said.
The Long Beach Parade pays homage to cars 25 years and older. It takes place on Monday evening and is always a highlight of the week. On Tuesday, Oct 5th, it’s the Biloxi VA Cruise In, which takes place at Cruise Central off Pass Road. The fun continues that night at The Dock, with a Hawaiian Luau. There will be dancing in the streets at the Biloxi Block Party from 8 am to 2 pm. on Oct 6th, and the beautiful Beau Rivage will host a very special event for cruisers that night.
One of the most favorite events of all is the Flame Throwing Competition. The Hard Rock Casino Biloxi will proudly host it this year. It takes place on Thursday night. Get there early as the action begins at dusk. (FYI – Flame throwing occurs when a car is specially outfitted, specifically to blast flames from the tail pipe upon acceleration) The winner will be declared by the level of applause from the spectators.
Returning after a long absence due to the aftermath of hurricane Katrina is The Country Cruisin’ Breakfast! All your home cooked favorites can be enjoyed each morning on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Long Beach Yacht Club is the place to be for a fresh brewed cup of coffee and a great hot meal. “We could not be happier about the Yacht Club’s participation this year, the breakfast was always very popular. People really missed it. It’s a great way to begin the day,” Woody said.
On Friday, October 8th, the day begins in Ocean Springs with the Cruise In beginning at 9 a.m. You can expect the red carpet treatment as you stroll around this lovely little city, and enjoy the hospitality of the locals. At 4:30 it’s time for hula hoops, bobby socks and poodle skirts as a Sock Hop and Street Party revs up in downtown Ocean Springs. “This is the first time for this event, and we are really excited about it,” Woody said.
The city of Bay St. Louis has stepped up their contribution to Cruisin’ this year. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, they have added additional headliner performers to entertain the crowds. You won’t want to miss the Mustang Sally Band for kickin’ country, or enjoy some classic Motown with the Temptation Revue. Please note that musical entertainment will be offered at every Cruise In location, Thursday through Saturday. “We have the best sponsors, and three Coast counties working together, along with six Coast cities. We also have over 700 volunteers. It is a matter of everyone pulling together – that is what makes this event such a success,” Woody said. “Folks are going to have a really hard time trying to decide what they want to do and where they want to go!”
On Saturday, a “Fly By” will take place over the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast. A variety of aircraft is expected. The planes will take off from the Trent Lott Airport in Pascagoula. The Fly By is sponsored by the Aviation Heritage Museum, and will take place around 3:00 p.m. Woody summed up the week long festivities this way, “Cruisin’ The Coast is such an exciting event. It makes me very proud and happy to have people come down here from all over the country to see and enjoy our beautiful Gulf Coast.”
The tremendous success and continued growth of Cruisin’ The Coast is due to many factors. First and foremost, South Mississippi is well known for warmth and southern hospitality. “Word of mouth is the best advertiser we have” Woody said.  In addition, Advertisements are routinely placed in National publications such as Hemmings Motor News, Hemmings Classic Car, Cruisin Style, and Street Rodder. Car Guru, Dennis Gage, who hosts the TV program “My Classic Car,” has been filming this every other year. His long time support, promotion and affiliation has helped put Cruisin The Coast on the map as one of the best car show events in the country.
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