‘Thursdays in May’ touts diversity this year

“We have outstanding diversity in the types of programs we’re offering this year,” Biloxi Historical Administrator Bill Raymond says of this year’s Thursdays in May program, the city’s month-long observance of National Preservation Month.

The series kicks off May 9, with a program at the Schooner Pier focusing on Biloxi’s seafood heritage. Three more educational outings are planned for ensuing Thursdays in May.

“We have tours, presentations, discussions, do-it-yourself advice on creating an oral history of your family, and just a wealth of interesting pursuits,” said Raymond, who organizes the award-winning city affair with members of the Biloxi Bay Chamber, Main Street Biloxi, Biloxi Public Schools and the Local History and Genealogy Department of the Biloxi Public Library

“Not only is the way we’re presenting the program going to be diverse, but the subject matter is, as well,” Raymond said. “We’re spotlighting the different cultures that make Biloxi such a unique community. We have church tours, a program on the historic beach wade-ins, and, of course, we’re kicking it off with a nod to our seafood industry.”

Attendance at the free programs has ranged from 75 to 250 people, depending on the location and subject. “That’s the beauty of it,” Raymond declared: “There’s something for all tastes. The common thread is that the focus is on Biloxi’s history and culture.”

Free refreshments and hors d’oeuvres will be provided at the weekly programs, and those who have obtained at least three of the four stamps on their “Passport through History” booklets – which will be available at each stop – will receive a commemorative gift. In previous years, guests have received T-shirts, posters, and “The Buildings of Biloxi: An Architectural Survey,” a 182-page book now being sold for $15 at the Biloxi Visitors Center.

The acclaim of the Biloxi program grew last year when the Mississippi Heritage Trust presented it an Award of Excellence. The Mississippi Main Street Association had previously cited the program with a statewide award.

Said Raymond: “This is certainly an honor to the groups — the chamber, the schools, Main Street, the library and the city — who organize this program and make it such a success. We’re also thankful that the public turns out each week to hear about the colorful history of our community.”

Here is this year’s Thursdays in May lineup:

May 9: Spotlight on Biloxi’s Seafood Heritage

Schooner Pier, U.S. 90

5:30 to 7 p.m.

Deanne Stephens Nuwer, Ph.D., and civic leader Bobby Eleuterius will lead a discussion titled “Biloxi’s Seafood Industry: A History of Immigrants,” based on a book Eleuterius funded through Biloxi First. The program also will include presentations of other seafood families and displays for seafood family histories. Families with ties to the seafood industry are encouraged to create display boards to share their history. Reception afterward will be sponsored by Chartwells, food service vendor for Biloxi Public Schools, and Main Street Biloxi.

May 16: Oral History Preservation 101

Biloxi Public Library, 580 Howard Ave.

11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Linda VanZandt of the USM Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage will discuss how the center is working to document the diverse cultures and history of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. There will also be presentations on how individuals and families can collect their own oral histories and how the Local History and Genealogy Department of the Biloxi Public Library can be a resource in gathering family histories. Lunch provided by Biloxi Bay Chamber and Hard Rock Café Biloxi.

May 23: 50th Anniversary of Biloxi Wade-Ins

Biloxi Visitors Center, 1050 Beach Blvd.

5:30 to 7 p.m.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Wade-in protest that led to the desegregation of the beach. To commemorate this important event in Biloxi’s history and the Civil Rights movement, James Patterson Smith, Ph.D., co-author with Dr. Gilbert R. Mason Sr. of “Beaches, Blood and Ballots: A Black Doctor’s Civil Rights Struggle,” will lead a discussion about the wade-ins and how the non-violent 1963 protest differed from protests in 1959 and 1960. Historic photos and video interviews will also be on display to help tell this important story. Refreshments provided by the City of Biloxi.

May 30: Paths of Prayer: Biloxi Church Tour

Biloxi Town Green, Beach Boulevard

4:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Take a trolley tour of Biloxi churches. The tour will highlight historic buildings as well as buildings rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina. The tour stops and times are:

— St. Michael Catholic Church, 177 First St., 4:30 p.m.

— Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation, 179 Oak St., 5:15 p.m.

— First Missionary Baptist Church, 658 Ester Blvd., 5:45 p.m.

— Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church, 800 Division St., 6:30 p.m.

— Nativity Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 870 Howard Ave., 7:15 p.m.

After the tour, a fish fry featuring entertainment by the Greater Saint John African Methodist Episcopal Church choir will be held on the Town Green. Space is limited on the trolleys and reservations are required. Call (228) 435-6370 or email lrosetti@biloxi.ms.us to reserve a seat. The trolleys will leave the Biloxi Town Green at 4:30 p.m. Participants may also use their own transportation.

The “Thursdays in May” Program is organized by the City of Biloxi, Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce, Biloxi Main Street, Biloxi Public Schools, and Local History and Genealogy Department of the Biloxi Public Library. The public is invited to attend all programs, free of charge.