Tourism season shows signs of strength even amid pandemic concerns

Tourism season shows signs of strength even amid pandemic concerns

OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - The new normal for the beginning of the tourism season looks pretty normal.

The annual Downtown Ocean Springs Crawfish Cook-Off is a good example.

“It’s been a great turnout,” said coordinator Trevor Reid, who is owner and operator of Downtown Digital LLC. “Honestly, it looks the same as it did last year.”

It was one of the first public events on the Coast since the COVID-19 pandemic forced massive closures, and it attracted a big crowd that continued throughout downtown.

“If you take a stroll down Government Street right here in Ocean Springs on any given day of the week, it’s a giant block party,” he said. “People are out. They’re having fun.”

He said he was able to pull off the event because of easing of the governor’s restrictions, a partnership with the city and public support. Despite a tough few months, he believes this is a new start.

“It’s getting back to where it should be, and there is definitely a live presence here in Ocean Springs,” Reid said. “I have, obviously, some concerns about other people and everything, but when it comes to spreading the virus and having an event like this outside, no, I don’t see any concerns.”

It seems that many others aren’t either with people hitting up stores, restaurants and casinos that have opened up with restrictions.

Highway 90 was jammed as it would be on a typical late spring day, and the beach jammed with people.

Despite the obvious signs, some say it didn’t feel like things were back quite yet.

“This is not normal,” said Wendy Hamilton of Just One More Bar & Grill in Vancleave. “The precautions everybody’s taken. You go in a store, people are wearing facemasks. That’s not our normal.”

She added that at-risk people should heed the warnings, including her own family.

“I have a special needs daughter and I worry about her as well. So, she wears a mask when we go out in public," she said.

Teacher Haleigh Pennington said she is hopeful for a full recovery, but her hope is tempered with reality.

“In the South, I think so. I think we’re ready to socialize and be around everyone, but it may not ever be back to normal," she said.

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