HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The lure of free money is helping to rejuvenate Hancock County's Tourism Industry. Leaders say the return of Magnolia money coupled with some new tourists attractions has given the Summer season the jump start it needed.
The doors of the Bay St. Louis Mardi Gras Museum have only been open for three months and the facility has already attracted nearly 6,000 people. Paula and Tom Vonderheide, from Indiana are some of the latest tourists to check it out.
"You didn't realize how much work goes into their outfits with what they've got to stick into it seeing it on TV, but you don't get to see it up close. All the design and the work that goes into it," said Tom Vonderheide.
For tourists like the Vonderheides, a lesson in local history and tradition quickly changes to arts and antiques. The Alice Moseley folk art museum is just an elevator ride away.
"We've had them from England, Scotland, Whales, Canada, Frances, Austria, Germany. The average time that people actually spend up here is well over an hour which I think is really interesting for a small museum," said museum curator Geri Bleau.
Tourism leaders say the attractions have been a big hit with visitors, but leaving with $20 in Magnolia money is what really impresses the guests.
"It's a very exciting time for people who come in and are given free money to go shopping in Hancock County. We have people lined up everyday coming to get Magnolia money. We anticipated doing about 5,000 a week. We are now doing about 10,000 a week. There are 70 merchants in Hancock County that accept it," explained Tourism Bureau Manager Myrna Green.
Magnolia money is part of a Summer tourism promotion made possible by a Grant from BP. Tourism leaders say that promotion along with the return of several attractions should help the county see a banner Summer tourism season.
"We now have the Buccaneer Park open , Mcleod Park , Infinity has all types of programs for the Summer we have the Mardi Gras Museum the Moseley Museum. So if you just name those, those are all tourism products that we did not have last Summer. So it can't help but make it a successful time," said Green.
The Hancock County Tourism Bureau first introduced Magnolia money two years ago. This time around the promotion is operating a little differently . You can't be from the Coast to participate and identification is required.