Finally! Meet Fred on Sunday

Biloxi honors its most-famous native, astronaut Fred Haise, with the public dedication of an eight-foot statue south of the Biloxi Lighthouse Sunday afternoon at 1:13.

The storied Apollo 13 astronaut, who turned 88 in November, will join Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich and sculptor Mary Ott Tremmel Davidson in unveiling the bronze likeness of a smiling Haise, garbed in his astronaut suit and cradling his space helmet.

Haise, a Biloxi native, fighter pilot and aerospace executive, was the lunar module pilot on the nearly-catastrophic Apollo 13. The mission was meant to be the third landing on the Moon but was aborted within 55 hours of launch because of an oxygen tank failure. Haise and fellow astronauts, Commander Jim Lovell and Jack Swigert, spent a grueling 142 hours and 54 minutes in space before returning safety to Earth.

The city’s initiative to create the statue received major support from Mississippi Power and Visit Mississippi, and technical assistance from Seymour Engineering.

Parking: The ceremony begins at 1:13 p.m., but those planning to attend should park at the Biloxi Visitors Center, Nativity Blessed Virgin Mary Elementary School, or the Lopez-Quave Public Safety Center. The Biloxi Tour Train will provide transportation from the south end of the Food Giant parking lot (across from the Public Safety Center) to the statue site south of the Biloxi Lighthouse. Porter Avenue at Bolton Lane will be closed to traffic beginning at 10:30 a.m. until the end of ceremony. Biloxi Police will be on hand to direct vehicles to park.

What’s new: The ceremony also signals the opening of the Lighthouse parking area, a popular beachfront area because of its location in the shadow of the city’s signature landmark.

The entire site has been remade. The number of parking spaces has doubled – to 180, with a dozen spaces for handicapped parking.  A 60-foot flag pole – five feet shorter than the weather vane atop the Biloxi Lighthouse – has also been installed at the west end of the site. A half-dozen new light poles have been installed, and the area is monitored by a host of police surveillance cameras.

See the ceremony live: A publicly accessible statue camera, the Fred cam, is in the works for inside the Biloxi Lighthouse, alongside the current Lighthouse traffic cam, but for Sunday, a live stream will be set up during the statue dedication and can be accessed by clicking on the LIVE tab at the top right of the city’s website,

The Moonwalk: The public also gets its first chance to see the Moonwalk. Artist Lucinda Perniciaro L’Enfant has converted a waterfront promenade into her interpretation of the surface of the Moon, including Fra Mauro, the area where Apollo 13 was scheduled to land. The Moonwalk also features the Apollo 13 insignia and three informational kiosks that tell the story of Apollo 13, the Moon’s impact on the Earth, and “a love letter” from Fred Haise to Biloxi.
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News & notes: Mardi Gras, sports, council

Mardi Gras parades: To see a list of upcoming Mardi Gras parades in Biloxi and the parade routes, click here.

Mardi Gras special seating: The Biloxi Parks & Recreation Department is providing special seating for disabled and frail or elderly residents to view the Gulf Coast Carnival Association parade on March 1. Registration deadline is Feb. 25. For more information and to download the registration form, click here.

Baseball and softball: Registration for Biloxi baseball and softball will close on Tuesday. For registration information and to view the flyer, click here.

City Council: The next scheduled meeting of the Biloxi City Council is Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. at Biloxi City Hall. To see the agenda and supporting documents, click here.