by Calvin Ishee, Associate Publisher

Cruisin’ The Coast (CTC) has been growing exponentially as each year passes with over 9,000 cars participating in this year’s highly successful event. CTC brings in thousands of visitors as well as millions of dollars to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. However as with all large scale events, some love it and some hate it.

From a Pass Christian perspective, one can find the good, the bad and even the ugly with hosting this year’s CTC. Leader of the Pass 2021 CTC; Anita Giani, was very satisfied with this year’s program and was proud of her team as well as the outstanding support provided by the City, it’s businesses as well as it’s citizens.
Giani commented on the Burn ‘Em Up Event, “While we only had 21 participants, several of them went through more than once. The highlight of the evening was the black car that spun around until his tires blew out, sending pieces of rubber into the crowds and scattering people. No one was injured, but it did add a moment of excitement.”
Additionally Giani said, “Tom Sawyer, a founding member of the Cruisin’ board and Pass Christian resident, said to the Cruisin’ committee in an email, “Thank you for a very professional layout of the concrete barriers for tonight’s Burn Out…Moving the location provided much more crowd control and safety for the participants and spectators. This was the correct decision.”
Pass Christian Police Chief Daren Freeman offered his comments, “I am very proud of our team for working 12-16 hours a day to maintain public safety and provide everyone with a safe, family friendly environment to enjoy the entire event.”
Local business owner Mary-Catherine Scriber commented, “Cruisin’ the Coast 2021 was a success! We could not have asked for better music, crowds and weather.  The Whiskey Bar is grateful to local police, fire, public works and CTC organizers and volunteers. Well done! Looking forward to 2022!”
Super Group Chapel Hart was thrilled with their outstanding performance on Friday night of the event, “ To be able to perform at Cruisin The Coast was such a surreal moment for all of us. Growing up right down the road in Poplarville we always enjoyed coming down to the coast to see all the amazing cars. For us to actually get a chance to perform that was absolutely amazing. Just looking out to the congregation and hearing everyone sing the words to our original music back to us was such a heartwarming feeling. We are forever grateful for the city of Pass Christian for all that they do for us and all the love they’ve shown us since our very first performance there. We love and appreciate every single person that came out to see us and we hope to be able to do it again next year!”
Volunteer organizer Mary Bourdin lauded volunteers for stepping up to the challenge for successfully hosting such a large event , “I’m very proud of all our local volunteers that helped us make Cruisin’ the Coast such a great event.  Our city employees, the Cruisin’ staff and Main Street also worked as a strong team.  It makes me wonder how anyone cannot love the Pass!”
On the bad side, local business owner and member of the Pass Christian School Board Halle Ricketts stated, “Overall the year’s CTC was a success and even better than in year’s past. Having said that, the City and the event organizers must solve the public parking problem in The Pass. The historical philosophy of let the public park wherever they want is outdated and must be changed. In my view, the City should consider buying the property next to the pavilion located at the juncture of Davis and Second Street. This would allow the City to build a three story parking structure that could also include a PC Police Sub Station. If we’re to continue offering these large public events, the lack of public parking has got to be addressed.”

There was also a bit of a controversy when one of the Burn Em Up CTC drivers was not allowed to make additional runs due to safety concerns. Social media exploded with complaints about “banning” one of the Burn Em Up participants. An official close to the City commented, “the current location was not safe because it was too narrow to accommodate the vehicle in question”.  Furthermore the official added, “this is a tragedy waiting to happen“. Another citizen commented on social media that Burn Em Up is a great event and if the organizers want to attract the best cars to future events, “perhaps they should find another location, like the Pass Christian Harbor parking lot.”

The ugly began when City officials allegedly removed independent business owner of South of I-10, Wendy Spratley from selling her merchandise during Pass Christian’s Cruisin’ Events.

According to several sources, Spradley had not only been given permission to set up her tent on private property, but she was allowed by a federal court case ruling  to operate her business during CTC events, as long as she was on private property and was not selling CTC merchandise. The Gazebo Gazette has requested additional information from the City and other sources to provide an update on the matter.

This year’s CTC set records with 9,496 cars and participants from 45 states.  It included a number of cool and exciting events but was also fraught with challenges such as a shooting and several accidents.

Although some residents expressed their concern that CTC is getting too big for the Coast, countless others love this event and want it to continue.

Organizers will huddle up in the near future to address this year’s challenges and plan for next year’s CTC.