Bay merchants hope ‘Harbor Fest’ will bring in BridgeFest-size business
By Jennifer Lenain
Mar 15, 2013, 19:06
The Old Town Merchants Assoc. is supporting a proposal to host "Bay HarborFest" in May, since BridgeFest has been postponed until the fall.
The Hancock Chamber of Commerce initiated BridgeFest in 2007 to celebrate the new bridge over the Bay of St. Louis. It replaced the bridge destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. Over the years, the festival has grown to become a major source of revenue for Old Town businesses.
However, the Chamber last month announced it had transferred ownership of BridgeFest to Bay Bridge Festivals, LLC, chaired by Hancock businessman Lee Seal. Seal announced that Bay BridgeFest will be moved to a later date in the fall and old town merchants were not pleased with the decision.
"Merchants were banking on a big stimulus coming in during May and when Bay BridgeFest was moved, panic spread across Old Town that they would lose such a big economic impact," Old Town Merchant's Assoc. President Jeremy Burke said Thursday.
However, Michael Rosato – formerly a partner in Bay Bridge Festivals, LLC. – presented the idea of a harbor festival in lieu of Bay BridgeFest to the Bay St. Louis City council last week.
No action was taken at the meeting, but the council met in executive session to discuss Rosato's plan. Now that Bay BridgeFest has been moved to the fall, merchants like the idea of Bay HarborFest taking its place, Burke said.
"We're excited about Bay HarborFest," he said.
Rosato will appear before the city council again on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers.
"It's vital to have a festival to open up the summer season and now a festival at the end of the season," Burke said.
Old town merchant Lonnie Falgout said, "It's critical when you move something like BridgeFest. Because of how it's grown, it's made up 30 percent of our yearly profits."
If the council approves Rosato's plan for Bay HarborFest, it will be scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, he said.