Get your motor runnin’ – the big weekend has arrived

Biloxi stands to see one of its busiest weekends of the year this weekend, with tens of thousands in town for a huge, free outdoor Darius Rucker concert at Harrah’s Gulf Coast on Point Cadet in east Biloxi and the annual Scrapin’ the Coast auto show headquartered at the Coast Coliseum in west Biloxi.

As many as 20,000 spectators and auto owners are expected to be involved with Scrapin’ the Coast, which showcases thousands of low-riding cars and trucks. And a minimum of 15,000 of the 40,000 holders of free tickets are expected to show up for the free concert on Saturday at Harrah’s.

“Everybody’s been focused on the traffic, but the fact is, we should also be aware of the buzz and excitement that these events are creating,” said Biloxi Chief Administrative Officer David Nichols. “Harrah’s wants to show off their new Grand Lawn with a huge concert, and Scrapin’ the Coast already has a record-setting number of advance registrants.

“On top of all of that, it appears that the weather is going to be very inviting, and, yes, our police department is working to make sure traffic moves in a safe manner. The best advice is to be aware that traffic will heavy,  be patient, and give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination.”

An already heavy traffic issue will be exacerbated by the closing of Interstate I-110 Saturday evening at 7 until Sunday morning at 9, so MDOT can demolish the Big Ridge Road bridge, which crosses I-110 in D’Iberville.

“As a result of that, and not being able to alter that schedule, traffic from the Darius Rucker concert will be routed through Ocean Springs, so we can avoid congestion in downtown and west Biloxi,” said Police Chief John Miller. “We’ll begin that detour about 8:30 on Saturday night, and it will remain in effect only as long as is necessary.”

At the same time, traffic coming into Biloxi from Ocean Springs will be forced to turn north on Myrtle Street, at the foot of the Biloxi Bay Bridge. “We have to do this because we could have as many as 15,000 pedestrians crossing Highway 90 at Harrah’s,” Miller said.
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See a welcome being distributed through the Mississippi Lodging Association

What you need to know about the Darius Rucker concert

Event security coordinator W.S. “Windy” Swetman III — whose firm Swetman Security also handles security for the Gulfport Music Festival, the Coast Coliseum and at Southern Miss athletic events – said parking will be available in four locations: in the Harrah’s two parking garages and in marked fields to the east and west of the casino resort.

Parking can begin as early as 8 a.m., when Swetman will have officers on duty, but gates to the concert site, south of U.S. 90, will not open until 4 p.m.  The 5 p.m. concert, which will open with the Eli Seals Band and A Thousand Horses, is expected to end about 8:30 p.m. with a fireworks show.

Swetman said no coolers, outside beverages or weapons will be allowed on the concert grounds, but lawn chairs and child strollers will be allowed. Rules, he said, would be similar to those at the Gulfport Music Festival and Coast Coliseum events.

“I think we’ll have a crowd of 15,000,” Swetman said. “Based on my experience with other festivals – and I know this is a free one and you’re hearing 25,000 people – I just don’t see that with the traffic issues. There are only so many arteries in and out of that area.”

Swetman, who is also a Harrison County supervisor, said his firm would have 105 security personnel at the event, “and, putting on my county supervisor hat for a minute, I just left a special-called meeting of the board, and the Board of Supervisors approved overtime to assist at this event. We’re going to send out Road Department personnel – between 6 and 10 and maybe as many as a dozen – to report to the Police Department at 4 o’clock Saturday to assist Police Chief John Miller.”
News and notes

Economic development: This week’s report updates the planned parking improvements at Treasure Bay and other developments. To read the column, click here.

City Desk: Among the issues on this week’s program are the weekend traffic situation (what else?) and the splash pad and Point Cadet Plaza. To listen to the 10-minute program, click here.

Swim meet: Swim teams from throughout the Southeast will gather next weekend at the Biloxi Natatorium for a swim meet that stands to be the largest ever held at the facility. To read the details, click here.