Biloxi Seafood Festival Brings In Business From Beyond Biloxi City Limits

For the past two years, C & D Mill out of Pensacola, Florida, has been a hit among visitors at the Biloxi Seafood Festival.  It's main attraction is a machine dating back to 1926 that uses granite stones to churn out fresh grits and cornmeal.

"We're getting a reputation.  We're getting return customers that come in and say we got something from you last year, and we need to get more from you this year. So, that makes a big impression with us," says Dorothy Bruton, C &D Mill.

The president of the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce says the exposure from Hurricane Katrina, in part, has played a role in getting outside businesses to take a look at this area, an area determined to get back on its feet.

"A lot of groups yesterday who were from out of state didn't even know how to say the word -  Biloxi - before Hurricane Katrina.  They're just finding out about us.  This year we have arts and crafts vendors from all over the country.  I actually spoke to one yesterday from Maine.  We have a gentlemen from Turkey here making bowls," says Ryan Giles, Biloxi Chamber of Commerce President.

But, those vendors did so well yesterday, they sold out and had to pack up. In all, 115 business came out. Local businesses like Divine Soulfood, off of Main Street in Biloxi, say a lot of locals don't even know they exist. Owner, Norma Nelson, says the festival gets business in the door.

"Yesterday, Saturday, I made my shrimp stew. Well, I only made like 10 gallons of it, and it went so fast I had to go back to the shop and make more.  They were sending people down to the shop from up here to get that shrimp stew," says Nelson.

Whether selling savory soulfood or unique arts and crafts, organizers with the Biloxi Seafood Festival say they hope the word will continue to spread to businesses ready for buyers.

Chamber president, Ryan Giles, says another sign that they will probably top last year's numbers is the fact that they almost sold out of merchandise yesterday.

Giles says the Chamber really depends on this event to provide most of the funding for its programs throughout the year.