Nearly 5,500 car buffs gobble up Cruisin' the Coast - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Nearly 5,500 car buffs gobble up Cruisin' the Coast

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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

It's too early to tell the true economic impact of one of South Mississippi's most popular events.  But the director of the Hotel-Motel Association Linda Hornsby said Cruisin' the Coast was "absolutely fantastic", bringing in enough visitors to keep local hotels about 90% full all week long.

Gift shops, gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants expected to see a spike in business as well.

A long time seafood restaurant in Gulfport is still recovering from its great week.  With big rubber gloves and a mound of fresh oysters still in the shell, Buck Lizana has what he calls "oyster cramp" from shucking so many this week.  With a smile and a laugh, he said,"Too many, I tell you what over the last seven days, we've probably averaged about 1,500 oysters a day."

Known as one of the oldest and longest running family owned seafood restaurants in Gulfport, "White Cap" was rebuilt on Highway 90 four years after Katrina destroyed their old harbor location. 

A week like this is exactly what restaurants all along the Gulf Coast needed.  Lizana said, "It has been phenomenal, we had a record week for business an all time record since we've been in business which is 50 years but this year has topped it, we're approaching 20% above last year so we're, we're elated."

The reason for the sudden lunch and dinnertime rush? You guessed it, Cruisin' The Coast and its nearly 5,500 registered car owners.

But White Cap owners were well prepared for all the Cruisers and their big appetites.  Lizana said, "I brought in extra help and of course plenty of extra food and fortunately we own our own wholesale seafood business so we had plenty of seafood on hand."

For servers like Melissa Gilman, that means plenty of hours to work and a big fat paycheck to look forward to.  Melissa Gilman said, "We were super packed, we've been working splits where we don't get out till around 11:00, 12:00 sometimes, but I don't mind, it's well worth it."

And the guests who coast in with Cruisin' are a server's dream.

Melissa Gilman said, "Well they like to sit here and tell you about their vehicle, they're very outgoing and tips have been wonderful."

Early estimates project Cruisin' the Coast 2011 to have infused close to $20 million into South Mississippi's economy.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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