(WLOX) - Thousands of folks will be celebrating the Fourth of July a bit early at the 33rd annual Our Lady of the Gulf crab festival, which runs all weekend on the school's campus in Bay Saint Louis.
The sounds of the band Pat Murphy and 'Sippiana Soul ignited the crowd on the first day of the OLG crab fest.
The band's name stems from a description of the cultural melt between New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a blend folks like volunteer and Hancock County resident Michael Goodsell can appreciate.
"It's a great way to bring together cultures, people, and it benefits the church," said Goodsell. "It's a good time."
This year's festival boasts nine bands, including the popular Chee-Weez from New Orleans.
Chee-Weez band member Joey Mangiapane says they'll be sporting stars and stripes and pouring their heart into providing a great free show for all ages.
"Our set list is all over the place, 70s, 80s, a wide variety," said Mangiapane. "We want everyone to get involved."
The festival is free to get into all weekend, and offers mouth watering seafood, art work, and rides for separate costs.
Crab fest co-chair Leigh Haas says she's helped organize it for 20 years.
"I think what excites me most is the community involvement," said Haas. "It doesn't matter if you're a member of the church or not. It brings everyone together. It's a well-oiled machine. Every year, we come out and do this, and we're really glad the weather turned out the way it did. We hope more crowds come out since the rain stopped."
On Saturday, the gates are open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
"Come out and see us please," said Mangiapane. "Come get some crabs."
The bands on Saturday include Razzo, the Bucktown All-stars, and the Todd 'Neill Band. On Sunday, the bands Family Tradition with Troy Ladner, Ryan Foret and the Foret Tradition, and Category Six will take the stage.
Organizers say the Fourth of July Crab Festival is the only fundraiser Our Lady of the Gulf hosts all year.