Lighthouse turns on its Christmas best Thursday

Biloxi’s annual Christmas on the Water boat parade, which dates back more than three decades, is the signature event of the city’s holiday lineup, but the Lighting of the Biloxi Lighthouse is steadily becoming a new tradition.

The lighthouse event, which kicks off a weekend of city-coordinated festivities, takes place Thursday night from 5:30 to 7 in the median surrounding the U.S. 90 landmark.

“We began the lighthouse ceremony back in 2013, and I thought we’d have 10 or 15 people,” said Biloxi Visitors Center Manager Bill Raymond. “We ended up with 20 people that first year, but last year, in our third year, we had more than 120 kids sit on Santa’s lap. In fact, it’s all gone so well the last few years that we haven’t seen a need to change anything. We’ve had good turnouts, the lights have gone on just like they were supposed to, and everyone’s had a great time.

The origin of the lighthouse ceremony is a story in itself. It all began with a 50-year-old photo of a Christmas-garbed Biloxi Lighthouse, Raymond says: “We had an old photograph of the lighthouse, taken by Biloxi artist Joe Moran actually, at Christmastime 1963, and we thought it would be interesting to repeat it 50 years later. So we contacted a manufacturer, showed them the picture, and they said, ‘Yes, we can do that.’ Once everything was hung, we thought it would be anti-climactic to just turn on the lights, so we decided to do this event. The response from the public has been overwhelming and it has grown every year.”

Thursday night at 6, Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich will flip a switch to energize red and silver garlands draped from the top of the 64-foot tall lighthouse. Hot chocolate and cookies will be served, and visitors will be able to purchase the new Christmas in Biloxi long-sleeve T-shirts.

Said Raymond: “Santa Claus will be there, there’s the hot chocolate and cookies, and, of course, the illuminating of the Biloxi Lighthouse. It gets everyone in the Christmas spirit.”
See the original Joe Moran photo
See the entire list of Christmas events


Fire Department marks firsts with new safety post

The Biloxi Fire Department has created a new battalion chief’s position that will focus on firefighter safety, and the new post is a first of another sort for the 127-year-old department: a female in a chief’s position.

But Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, who approved Fire Chief Joe Boney’s promotion of firefighter Michelle Crowley, says it’s not a big deal.

“It’s just business,” Gilich said of the new position. “The story is that we’re focusing on firefighter safety, and promoting a proven, experienced firefighter, not because she’s a woman.”

Crowley, a veteran Biloxi firefighter who has had a role in securing $2 million in grants for the department, has been named the department’s new Battalion Chief for Occupational Safety & Health. She will work in the department’s Fire Training Division and will be responsible for developing and implementing procedures designed to minimize the risk to firefighters.
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