Cruisin' The Coast: A Classic Car Lover's Party

A popular annual event for the southern Mississippi Gulf Coast that brings classic cars and drivers from all over the country.

Cruisin' the Coast began as a little event that took off in a big way. In its inaugural year, the event drew only 384 registered vehicles from neighboring states. It has quickly gained popularity over the last five years.

Each year registration has increased dramatically from 384 in 1996. It jumped to 997 in 1997. It soared to 1,854 in 1998 (even only one week after Hurricane Georges). It steadilty climbed to 3,011 in 1999. It met expectations by attracting a record 3,777 cars from 35 states in the year 2000. The cars are trailered or driven in.

The event has generated only positive outcomes since its inception in 1996. The overal impact of Cruisin' the Coast on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is staggering. The economic impact has grown from $1 million to $7 million during the first four years alone.

Cruisin' the Coast was originally run by local car clubs but the area merchants saw a wonderful opportunity to enhance the event and increase tourism revenues. The event is now largely sponsored by area casinos.

Cruisin' the Coast received the Governor's Excellence in Tourism Award as Festival/Event of the Year in the State of Mississippi. Cruisin' the Coast was also named the recipient of the "Shining Example Award" for Best Festival/Event of the year by the Southeast Tourism Society. The award is based on community wide involvement, charitable contributions, economic impact, quality of marketing and rate of growth.

Cruisin' the Coast's basic game plan is for each registered classic vehicle to travel to each of four designated sites. At the site, the driver acquires a stamp to be included in a free cash drawing on the last day.

All the fun is family oriented. The year 2000 even included a Kids Cruise at The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center. The children's day was complete with fifties food and games.

The nostalgic theme resounds through all activities and entertainment. The coast casinos schedule live music from yesteryear. Some of the great oldies bands that can be heard include: The Platters, Bill Haley's Comets, Vince Vance and the Valiants, and Little Deuce Coupe. All are outdoor concerts free for the whole family. Additional music entertaiment can be heard inside the casinos for minimal admission prices.

The casinos also sponsor an area wide Poker Run and several giveaways. This year such giveaways included a PT Cruiser and a BMW SUV. The cruisin' continues all day long but the area casinos provide endless alternatives for nightly entertainment, if cruisers would just like to park.

There is also a swap meet where merchants have a chance to sell classic car parts. They sell everything from original door locks to custom lighting assemblies and everything in between. Oldies items like poodle skirts and dashboard hula dolls are also available.

The swap meet was originally housed in an open air market place at the Rice Pavillion, the main area for registration on the first day and to announcing winners on the final day. The meet grew so large that it had filtered to areas outside of the pavillion with tented booths.

In 2000, the swap meet was relocated to the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center. There was a smal admission fee but the fee granted the buyer admission to the swap meet for the duration of Cruisin' the Coast.

Cruisin' the Coast was also promotionally partnered, for the second year, with the nationally syndicated show, "My Classic Car" hosted by Dennis Gage, a well known vintage car show enjoyed by enthusiasts. Dennis Gage made appearances at different cruise sites and helped distribute trophies on the last day of activities. Random cash drawings were also distributed at this time.

The 5 day long activities also include an auto auction and discounted tickets on the Star Ship Cruise Line (a ship that cruises in the Gulf of Mexico serving lunch or dinner). A block party kicks off the celebration and a parade of classic vehicles really gets everyone ready to cruise.

In the begining, Cruisin' the Coast accepted all vehicles old or new in it's registration. Due to its increasing popularity the organizers had to limit the age of the vintage vehicles. The vehicle must be at least 25 years of age to register. Registered vehicles are the only vehicles allowed to park within the cruisin' sites. The sponsors made one exception-all vehicles registered in 2000 would be grandfathered in for 2001.

The event is much anticipated by the young and old alike. It has become a major tourism bloom for the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The annual Cruisin' the Coast in early October has given the residents and participants a unique cruise down a nostalgic memory lane.

© High Speed Ventures 2011