BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - The Bay BridgeFest in Bay St. Louis has changed its venue, but it hasn't changed its charm. The bridge may now be in the background, but it's not in the back of anyone's mind. People still know the reason for the celebration.
The Bay BridgeFest moved down the street to the new Bay St. Louis Harbor with an expanded performance and vendor area.
An added bonus has been the increased retail sales. The new harbor is snuggled next to the downtown area. Merchants report that this event brings in close to 30 percent of their business for the year.
The traditional 2nd Saturday Art Walk helped spread the celebration for blocks beyond the harbor. This year's festival drew about 5,000 people, which is about the same as last year. The economic benefit has excited New Orleans and Bay St. Louis resident Monica Frois.
"I love it. I think it's going to be a big draw to get people to this area," Frois said. "It's great for the merchants. Main Street was really crowded. People were shopping, buying, doing exactly what we like to see."
The festival, which was named 2012 Large Event of the Year by the Mississippi Tourism Association, included all the bells and whistles. Of course, there was plenty of music from regional acts like The Iguanas to get the crowd dancing, and dancing and more dancing.
It even brought in California resident George Heagerty.
"This is beautiful," Heagerty said. "What a beautiful day, first of all, but what a great town. We wandered around the town. It was very beautiful, nice people, good food. What's not to like?"
Lee Seal, who has been event director for two years, doesn't forget the reason for the celebration.
"It's so important to us, because we were basically cut off from the rest of the Coast," Seal said. "A five minute drive would take 45 minutes, and when it was opened, we had a big party. It was so much fun. We said we ought to do this every year and not just when we opened the bridge."