Fall events preview Biloxi's tercentennial

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BILOXI, Miss.--Foreshadowing what is to come at next year's tercentennial, a calendar of fall happenings suggests that this "Festival City," despite having hosted five years of casino gaming, still maintains its unique Gulf Coast flavor.

sand castle magicBeginning in September, visitors here will encounter signs of the impending yearlong celebration--murals displayed on buildings; an unveiling of a statue of founder Pierre LeMoyne Sieur d'Iberville, and a kick-off event at the Town Green on Sept. 5, featuring food and entertainment--all in traditional Biloxi style.

Here is a rundown of events taking place in September and October:

  • Mississippi Gulf Coast Blues Festival, Sept. 11 to Sept. 13. This annual event is in its eighth year and encompasses three full days and three different venues. The Biloxi Grand Bayview Resort Hotel ballroom, adjacent to the Grand Casino on the beach, on Sept. 11 at 9 p.m., features rhythm and blues singer Jerry Butler. Admission is $20.
  • The Jackson County Fairgrounds in Pascagoula, 22 miles from Biloxi via Highway 90, on Sept. 12, features vocalists Marvin Sease, Denise Lasalle and "Soul" Bond. The show begins at noon, and admission is $15 in advance, $20 day of show. Also, there will be a block party in the area of 13th Street and 25th Avenue, between highways 49 and 90, in Gulfport, Miss., beginning at 1 p.m. on Sept. 13. Admission is $5. Sponsors are Grand Casino Biloxi, Ingalls Employees Credit Union, Seagram Gin and JZ Radio Station 94.5 in Biloxi. For information, call Sam Walley at (228) 497-5615 or Ruthie White at (228) 864-2161. Note: The 228 area code is in the process of being changed from 601. In some areas, the changeover has been completed and in others it has not. If callers cannot get through using 228, try 601.

  • Biloxi Seafood Festival, Sept. 18 to Sept. 20. The festival, to be held at Point Cadet Plaza (follow the signs from Highway 90), celebrates the importance of the seafood industry to Biloxi's history and heritage with games, contests and live entertainment, including concerts by Bad Company on Friday night and Starship on Saturday night. Hours are Friday, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $8 for those attending the evening concerts only. Children under 12 are admitted free. Biloxi Chamber of Commerce, Phone: (228) 374-2717
  • Sun Herald Sand Sculpture Contest, Sept. 19, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The competition will be held on the white-sand beach of the gulf, opposite the Edgewater Mall ("one of the few beach areas that doesn't have a casino," offered John McFarland, marketing services director for the Sun Herald newspaper and chairman of the event). The 23rd annual contest has adopted the theme "Discovering the Coast," tying in with the 300th anniversary of the founding of Biloxi, McFarland said.
  • Billed as the world's largest sand sculpture contest, the competition pits 70 to 75 five-member teams against one another in two categories: Open (for all ages and levels of ability) and Championship. Best of Show prizes in the Championship category are $1,000 for winner and $500 for the runner-up. In the Open category, five prizes range from $100 to $500. There is no entry fee. Contestants can register on-site at the beach at 8 a.m. or in advance by contacting the Sun Herald at (228) 896-2434.

  • Kids Fest and Expo, Sept. 19, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sept. 20, from noon to 5 p.m. This event will take place at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center on Highway 90. Entertainment and educational presentations, prepared by local retail businesses and nonprofit groups, will be geared toward the interests of children. These include appearances by the television cartoon character Scooby Doo and an alien from the SciFi network. Also slated are crafts for kids to make.
  • Admission is $3 for children and $1 for adults. Ron Meyers Production, Inc., (228) 896-9336, (800) 476-9336

  • Biloxi Oktoberfest '98, Sept. 25 to 27 and Oct. 2 to 4. The Oktoberfest, to be held under the tent at Keppner's Gasthouse, 1798 Beach Blvd. (Highway 90), features German bands from Stuttgart, Germany, and authentic German food and beverages. Contests include polka dancing, the chicken dance, hit-the-nail, log sawing and beer drinking. Admission is free. Hours on Sundays are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. "till everyone leaves," according to a spokesman. The event is sponsored by Keppner's and Beck's Beer. Contact Florence Keppner at (228) 436-4878
  • Scottish Games and Celtic Festival, Oct. 3 and 4. Held at the Harrison County Fairgrounds from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days, this gathering features Scottish dancers, bagpipe bands, athletic competitions, herding demonstrations, horse shows, living history reenactors, craft demonstrations, Scottish food and Scottish merchandise. A two-day admission is $10. The event is sponsored annually by the Highlands & Islands Association of Celtic Gatherings. For information, contact Ron Courchen, games chief, at (228) 392-0360.
  • Cruisin' the Coast, Oct. 8 to 11. This four-day festival of retro music and wheels begins Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a block party at Rice Pavilion at the intersection of highways 49 and 90 and cruises among various locations from Bay St. Louis to Pascagoula. Classic cars will roam from casino to casino along a 20-mile strip of beach, touching on a number of venues along the way. A total of 16 bands, mostly '50s entertainers, will perform at the different locations. Among the performers will be Johnny Rivers and Frankie and the Cruisers. Entrants in the car cruise are eligible to share in a cash prize drawing of $15,000. The entry fee is $35. The event, called "America's Largest Block Party," is hosted by 10 area car clubs. Cruisin' the Coast, Phone: (888) 808-1188
  • American Powerboat Association Offshore Championship, Oct. 24 to 31. This is the APBA Offshore World Championship 1998 Mississippi Gulf Coast Run, featuring some million-dollar crafts up to 30 feet long. The racing takes place on Oct. 28 and 31 off the Broadwater Marina. The race course outline was not available at press time. Visitors can watch the race for free, but a small admission price is charged to view the boats in the dry pit area, according to a spokeswoman for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau. Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau, Phone: (228) 896-6699, Web: www.gulfcoast.org
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