June 9, 2011, Ocean Springs, Mississippi
By Capt. Dave Lear
There are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes of a successful billfish tournament. Readying the scales, stuffing boat bags, ordering hats and T-shirts, and getting the registration paperwork in order highlight the lengthy list. But none of that–or the fishing, actually–would be possible without the generous support of the sponsors. Which is why Bobby Carter, director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, organized last night’s dinner and pub crawl in the picturesque historic village of Ocean Springs. With the boats all offshore, Thursday evening provided the perfect opportunity to recognize sponsors before the pace got really hectic. It turned out to be a raucous party complete with Mardi Gras beads, Zydeco music and happy revelers.
“The Classic is one hell of an economic boost to the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Carter explained. “Our contestants spend money on fuel, stay in our local hotels and eat in our local restaurants. They enjoy our casinos and night-life and return to visit again and again. We really appreciate that patronage and none of it would be possible without the support of our wonderful tournament sponsors. So I thought this little shindig would be a good way to say thanks to all of them.”
First stop on the rockin’ and rollin’ road show was the Manhattan Grill in the downtown Ocean Springs. Mayor Connie Morgan welcomed the guests as they munched on delicious crab claws, steamed shrimp, gumbo, cheese grits, fish fingers and other succulent local seafood.
Afterwards, the walking entourage took to the streets of Ocean Springs led by local musician Rockin’ Dopsie and a tractor-drawn float with a police escort. With beads flying, on-lookers cheering and the amps booming, the laughing procession made subsequent stops at five other local watering holes. SOS Daiquri Bar & Grill, Leo’s Wood Fired Pizza, Kwitzky’s Dugout, Mosaic Tapas Bar, and The Office Bar and Lounge all added to the festive party atmosphere as the celebratory crowd grew with each layover. With Southern graciousness, the sponsors were duly thanked with toasts, backslaps and hugs throughout the evening.
But now it’s back to “work,” albeit with a few bleary eyes and ample smiles. A good time was definitely had by all, that’s for sure, thanks to a genuine display of Southern hospitality with a Classic twist.