Cruisers bringing revenue to coast businesses

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Cruisin' the Coast is already cranking up the south Mississippi economy. And with more venues and block parties coming up the crowds are expected to grow.

According to Woody Bailey the executive director of Cruisin' the Coast, in 2011 cruisers injected about $19.6 million into the south Mississippi economy.

Bailey expects a big increase this year judging by the number of early participants and pre-registered cars.

The welcome signs are up at the Fillin' Station in Biloxi and hungry visitors are cruisin'. Cruisin' the Coast is the second busiest week for this downtown restaurant behind Mardi Gras.

"Every time it comes down here every year, every business gets packed. It brings in a lot of money, bring a lot of different people that might not normally visit the area," Fillin' Station manager Adam Sherman said.

Aaron Middleton and his friend Reggie Williams are annual cruisers. Middleton has a purple '63 Chevy Nova parked outside the restaurant.

"We like eating here at the Fillin' Station, and usually a couple of other places we'll stop in and eat most to get seafood. Even though we're from Louisiana, we like the good seafood from the Gulf," Aaron Middleton said.

Restaurants aren't the only businesses reaping the benefits of Cruisin' the Coast.

Marcia Johnson and 60 members of her car club from Picayune have a lot on their plates this week.

"Mostly the casinos, no, we buy parts and things, to do another car, to restore the car," Marcia Johnson said. "I spend money here. It's a great occasion."

Cruisers are also pulling into gas stations to fill up their hot rods.

The Warrens and their fuzzy passengers drove in from Tennessee.

"We come a long way to have fun and spend money," Bob Warren said. "Every moment is worth it."

With positive reviews like that it's easy to see why Cruisin' has become a major part of the economic engine of the Mississippi coast.

Warren said he could spend his money on a variety of things.

"Who knows, beer, gambling, gasoline, food, but I got my woman. So I ain't going to be spending on no other woman, only her," Warren said.

With a block party in downtown Biloxi tomorrow the Fillin' Station is opening up early to serve breakfast. And Diamondhead will host the first Blessing of the Classics tomorrow afternoon and a big turnout could help boost business in that new city.

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