Cruisin’ the Coast: 22-year-old Mississippi classic lures car enthusiasts from all over the world

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today

Car enthusiasts ride down Beach Boulevard during the 22nd Annual Cruisin’ The Coast event on the Gulf Coast Wednesday, October 3, 2018.

GULFPORT – Drive along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast on a hot fall’s day during the first week of October, and you just may find yourself double checking your calendar to see what year it is.

No, it’s not 1972 or the year your father or grandfather bought his very first car. It’s still 2018 – the year of the 22nd Annual Cruisin’ the Coast event.

Recently named America’s Best Car Show of 2018, “Cruisin’” brings thousands of car enthusiasts from all over the world to experience a 30-mile-long block party.

What started in 1996 as a festival to celebrate classic cars, music and events has turned into a highly anticipated Gulf Coast tradition. Over 8,000 antique cars and hot-rods were registered for last year’s event. This year, over 9,000 vehicles are expected to be registered once registration ends Saturday at noon.

Beginning Sept. 29 and ending Oct. 7, the annual show allows cruisers to supply spectators with a sense of nostalgia as they show off their classic cars in a lineup of featured events that take place in the state’s sought-after beach towns.

Mississippi Today photojournalist Eric Shelton traveled on Wednesday and Thursday to some of Cruisin’ the Coast’s designated event locations, including Biloxi, Diamondhead, Bay. St. Louis and Pass Christian – documented the events in the slideshows that follow.

Biloxi Block Party

Just across from some of the Gulf Coast’s most popular casinos, cruisers parked their classic cars and popped the hoods for viewers who flocked to downtown Biloxi.

During Wednesday morning’s “Biloxi Block Party,” Janet Henderson’s 1972 “candy apple red” Chevelle Super Sport radiated in a graveled lot of over 100 featured antique cars.

Spectators gravitated toward Henderson. And it wasn’t just because she was passing out wooden stick fans promoting her hometown of Bowling Green, Ky. It was because she was eager to tell them all about her classic convertible. (Not all car owners remain in the same vicinity as their cars during the events. Many owners drift and fellowship with other cruisers.)

After Hurricane Katrina, a friend of Henderson’s and her husband’s introduced them to Cruisin the Coast. “We just love the concept of being able to go from city to city,” Henderson said. “We just fell in love with it and have been coming for seven years now.”

Want a closer look at Henderson’s ’72 Chevelle? Look no further:

Blessing of the Classics

Cruisers brought their registered vehicles to Diamondhead to be blessed on Wednesday afternoon.

Each blessing came with a certificate that was printed with a special prayer: “Bless this car. Bless its owner. Bless all occupants. Protect it from all harm and damage. May it bring pleasure in its appearance and fond memories of times past that it proudly displays to all those exposed to its radiant beauty and nostalgic reminiscence.”

Vicari Auto Auction

A multi million dollar event, the Vicari Auction takes place in the Coast Coliseum Convention Center in Biloxi and features over 400 hundred cars.

Feature Car Appearance: Bay St. Louis

With the Bay St. Louis bridge and harbor as a picturesque backdrop, featured cars line the strip of the city’s booming downtown. Similar to other events during the week, music is an integrated part of the nostalgic celebration.

Burn ’em Up in the Pass

Pass Christian’s Second Street is no longer just known for being the designated starting point for the annual Pass Parade during Mardi Gras. This is the street where thousands come out to see classic cars burn some serious rubber.

For more information on Cruisin’ the Coast and a complete schedule of this year’s remaining events visit cruisinthecoast.com.