Among the revelry, a Blessed weekend

Biloxi will host another of its time-honored traditions this weekend with the annual Blessing of the Fleet and Shrimp Festival, a custom that traces its roots back to the city’s European settlers.

“This is our 85th year, and that’s quite a lot of history of Biloxi seafood, heritage and culture,” declared Laurie Rosetti, who helps coordinate special events for the city. The festivity is a time for the fishing community to ask for God’s blessing for the upcoming season.

There’s also a good bit of ritual along with the ritual that was once hailed as Mardi Gras on the water.

This evening at 5 a royal reception will be held at the Slavonian Lodge, where the public can also get a taste of the Great American Seafood Cookoff, an event co-sponsored by the Mississippi Department of Resources.

“On Saturday on the Town Green, we’ll have the more than 100 vendors from throughout the Southeast for our Fais Do Do,” said Rosetti, referring to a daylong celebration whose name is French and loosely translated as street dance. “We’ll have four bands playing throughout the day, highlighted by the Molly Ringwalds Saturday night. We’ll also be recognizing the King and Queen in a ceremony at 5.”

The religious backdrop of the weekend will be constant: The Mass of the Blessing takes place on Saturday at 4 at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, and the blessing itself takes place in the channel east of the Biloxi Lighthouse, Saturday at 2 p.m., shortly after a wreath is dropped in memory of fishermen past.

“We had about three dozen boats blessed last year, and we’re hoping for the same or more this year,” Rosetti said. “It’s always hard to predict, since they don’t have to register But everyone is encouraged to come out and be a  part of this weekend, which really is living history.”

Elsewhere this weekend, there’s an American Kennel Club dog show at the Coast Coliseum, and at the casino resorts you’ll find Chicago, the Good Ol’ Boy Tour (Moe Bandy, Joe Stampley and T. Graham Brown), Joan Rivers, Diamond Rio, and the Foreigner tribute group 4NR2.
See the weekend entertainment lineup


Preservation month: A success of historic proportions

“I was pleasantly surprised with the attendance we had each week of the month,” Bill Raymond says of this month’s Preservation in May series, which concluded with nearly 300 people taking part in a salute to Keesler Thursday at the Biloxi Visitors Center.

“Weather could have been a factor each week,” the city’s historical administrator said, “and, in fact, on the first week, Cedar Lake Island had been underwater two days before the event, but we still had 130 people show up. Normally, we get about 75 people each week, but we had well over a hundred people each week.”

The weekly series launched with an outing to Cedar Lake Island, a small venue off Cedar Lake Road where the city’s history in the timber industry was discussed. Other venues included the Old Brick House, where the Biloxi High School jazz ensemble entertained; the opening of the state’s first school district museum at the Dukate building at Biloxi Public Schools; and a visit from Mississippi Arts Commission author and storyteller Diane Williams, who debunked myths, legends and outright lies about the Magnolia State.

And what’s in store for next year? “We’re always ready for suggestions,” Raymond said of the organizing committee, which includes the city, the Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce, Main Street, Biloxi Public Schools, the University of Southern Mississippi and the Local History and Genealogy Division of the Biloxi Public Library. “We want topics to be interesting, and sometimes they are brought to us. In fact, the Land Trust of Mississippi suggested the Cedar Lake Island idea, and it worked out great.”
See photos from the Preservation in May finale


Development report: Another million-dollar week of housing permits

By Jerry Creel, Community Development Director

This week in economic development our department issued building permits for single family homes which again exceeded one million dollars in total construction valuation. New single family residential housing starts continue to be very strong in the city. We are currently reviewing house plans for next week which should again top one million dollars.

In commercial development this week, our department received the conceptual design for the $220 million dollar expansion to the Biloxi Boardwalk Resort. Architects for the project are Dale Partners and the Cunningham Group, and are currently working on the site designs for the project.
See the Biloxi Boardwalk Resort


Council to discuss charter boat issue

The issue of who can operate charter boats at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor will be an issue at the City Council’s two meetings Tuesday.

The City Council will have a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. to discuss a proposed ordinance that would limit charter boat operations at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor to those who actually lease slips at the harbor. A vote on the issue may take place during the council’s first-of-the-month 6 p.m. meeting on Tuesday.

Chief Administrative Officer David Nichols said the federal government limits the number of charter boats at the harbor to 20, but some charter boat operators have begun soliciting business at the venue without actually leasing a slip from the city.

The council will also consider amending the city’s new ordinance legalizing the seasonal sale of fireworks to provide specific dates and zoning classifications where fireworks could be sold. The use of fireworks, of course, remains illegal in Biloxi.
See the complete agenda and supporting documents


News and notes

I-110 reminder: On Monday and Tuesday, from 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m., MDOT will close the I-110 highrise to all traffic in order to begin the final phases of an upgrade of the bridge over the Back Bay of Biloxi. To read details – and see about closures later in the month – click here.

More baseball talk: Chief Administrative Officer David Nichols updates the ongoing discussion about construction of MGM Park at Beau Rivage, the downtown baseball stadium and entertainment venue, in this week’s City Desk webcast. To listen to the program, click here.

On fire: The Biloxi Fire Department’s Facebook page now has more than a thousand likes. To keep up with the comings and goings of the department on Facebook, click here.

Citywide: You should also like the city’s Facebook page to see last-minute traffic advisories and other breaking information. To see the page, click here.

On June: For an early look at the June calendar of events, click here.

No DRC: The Development Review Committee, the multi-departmental body that oversees new commercial construction in Biloxi, will not meet next week. However, to see times, places and agendas for all municipal public meetings next week in Biloxi, click here.