Merchants Talk About Proposed Move Of Mardi Gras Museum

Lori Hargues and Ashley Navarrete walked into the Magnolia Hotel and experienced a colorful part of Biloxi's history. While relatives sat through a pharmacy convention, Ashley got to try on costumes at the Mardi Gras Museum.

"She knew nothing about the mardi gras," Hargues said. "So we just came over here to show her some more about the mardi gras."

Last year, the Mardi Gras Museum welcomed 7,300 visitors. Attendance is one of the reasons city leaders think the museum is getting just a bit too big for this historic property. So Biloxi may move the costumes from the Magnolia Hotel to the more spacious Dantzler House across from the lighthouse.

Restaurant owner Bobby Mahoney supports the idea.

"Probably if you had the heart of the Mardi Gras Museum in your heart," Mahoney said, "you would want to see it move down there, where it would get more exposure."

But Mahoney's opinion is not shared by Vieux Marche bookstore owner Mike Hutter.

"To me, this is the historic and cultural center of downtown," Hutter said. "And we should be going the other way, finding other things to come downtown to get that critical mass of attractions to draw not only tourists buy local people."

Hutter thinks downtown Biloxi consists of a four block area that includes Vieux Marche and Rue Magnolia. Councilman Jim Compton says downtown is much bigger than that.

"For those of us on the west end of downtown, we still view Porter Avenue as part of downtown Biloxi," said Compton. "We don't want to be excluded."

Mayor A.J. Holloway proposed the Mardi Gras Museum move during recent budget talks with the Biloxi City Council. The George Ohr Museum is scheduled to move next to Tullis Manor in 2004.