GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Rose Garden was the site of Gulfport's holiday celebration. It was there the city honored a man who played a big part in the city's history.
"He's the man that was the founder of our city and a tremendous, tremendous statesman," Mayor George Schloegel said.
A statue of Captain William Harris Hardy, the founder of Gulfport, was unveiled in its new permanent home in the Rose Garden. The statue was actually made by the son of a Russian author.
"From being face down in the mud after the hurricane, it's been a very nice tribute," said Harris Hardy, William Hardy's great-great nephew. "We were praying and hoping the city could take over, and they did a good job."
Hardy established railroad lines throughout the state in the late 1800s. Hardy established the cities of Gulfport and Hattiesburg by setting up railway stations in those cities. Hardy even named the cities he established. He named the port at the Gulf, Gulfport. Hattiesburg was named after his wife, Hattie Lott.
Hardy also worked in public service, and was elected to the Mississippi State Senate in 1895.
The second part of the holiday celebration kicked off with the lighting of the city's Christmas tree. Shortly after the lighting, the man of the hour arrived. Santa let his reindeer rest up Monday night as he hitched a ride on a city fire truck to meet the boys and girls of Gulfport. He even had a special message for all the boys and girls of South Mississippi.
"Be good, clean your room, say your prayers, brush your teeth, all the things that little boys and girls are supposed to do cause Santa's watching you," Santa said.
Inside, young musicians from Gulfport High provided a musical backdrop for the third part of the celebration. The city celebrated the rededication of its newly-renovated city hall. The building recently received more than a million dollars worth of upgrades.
An unveiling, a tree lighting and an open house rededication, it was three celebrations in one as the city rang in the holiday season. Santa summed it up best.
"Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the city of Gulfport. Thank you and ho ho ho ho Merry Christmas."