Biloxi campground owner Bill Mooney remembers the first Black Spring Break, and the traffic jam it created in front of his Highway 90 property. As he walked around the campground, he said, "The Black Spring Breakers didn't seem to be a problem, other than all the roads were blocked."
Memories of the traffic nightmare are why some of this year's campers will leave the coast earlier than they originally planned, just in case Black Spring Break crowds overwhelm the area again. Jim Gordon is one of the people who will head home early.
"The main thing is you can't get anywhere," he said. "And if you do, you're going to be out on the road for hours trying to get there."
There was so much traffic last year, businesses up and down Highway 90 suffered. It was so bad, Treasure Bay Casino threatened to file a lawsuit to recoup its weekend losses. But that lawsuit never happened. As they prepared for this year's Black Spring Break, Treasure Bay executives told me they considered closing the casino for a weekend. Instead, Treasure Bay will stay open. And the casino will hope gamblers can get to their property.
"We're going to try to make the best of it," general manager Bernie Burkholder said. "We're hoping that the event is managed better, that the crowds will be controlled, and that it's going to take a step in the right direction."
For his camper's sake, campground owner Bill Mooney is hoping the same thing.
"I'd like to see it controlled a little better than it was last year," Mooney said. "And I believe it will be."
The expected Black Spring Break crowds have forced a couple of groups to change their plans. Ron Meyers cancelled his arts and crafts fair at the coliseum that weekend. And the Professional Dance Teachers Association postponed its conference two weeks. It also switched venues, moving from the coliseum to the President Casino Broadwater Resort.
According to coliseum director Bill Holmes, "We had the responsibility to inform our clients that there is a potential that Black Spring Break would return and there is a potential that the roads could be gridlocked."
The coliseum cancellations have freed up several hotel rooms that Black Spring Break visitors could take advantage of. But so far, hotel managers say they've gotten very few Black Spring Break reservations for April 6-8.