Main and Mulberry Podcast – w/ Erin Rosetti, Coastal Mississippi (August 5, 2020)

As soon as you say the words Gulf Coast, most of us start thinking about seafood and beaches. But there is way more to the Mississippi Gulf Coast area. Museums, casinos, island getaways, and microbreweries can all be found in the region. Erin Rossetti, the Director of Communications and Engagement for Coastal Mississippi, is here to tell us about it and how you can be safe when visiting the Gulf.

Transcript:

AB:
Hello everyone. And welcome to another episode of Main and Mulberry. I’m your host, Anna Bell. And today I’m so excited to have with us, the Director of Communications and Engagement for Coastal Mississippi, Erin Rossetti. Erin, we really appreciate you taking the time to be with us today.

ER:
Thank you, Anna. We appreciate you having us. We know that right now is a difficult time for everyone. Clearly I’m working from my home office. But yeah, we certainly appreciate the time.

AB:
Absolutely. I’m really excited to learn more about the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Erin let’s get started there. Maybe you can kind of tell us about those coastal communities that are along your beaches. Share with us, maybe some highlights if you will, of those coastal communities.

ER:
Of course. So we have 12 coastal communities throughout our 62 miles of shoreline and they’re all very.

AB:
Oh, that’s great.

ER:
Absolutely. So Coastal Mississippi represents the lower three counties of the state. So from state line of Alabama to the state line of Louisiana, and we have plenty of experiences within those borders, and each of our communities is distinct from the next. You know, you still have that atmosphere of laid back coastal culture. But at the same time, you can really experience something unique in every city that you go to. Two of our really popular destinations are Bay St. Louis and that’s on the West side of our region. And then of course you have Ocean Springs toward the East side and we call those our bookends in a way, because they’re both very creative and artistic and there’s a lot of galleries and just things to do related to the arts and that creative economy. So those are very distinct in their own right. And then of course we have Biloxi and Gulf Port, which are two of our largest cities within the region. And Biloxi is well known for its gaming components and opportunities. And so is Gulf Port, but they’re both equally known for our seafood industry and you know, how prevalent that is here. So you can really enjoy just again, it’s unique across the board, anywhere that you go, you’re going to be able to have a very different experience here.

AB:
Oh yeah. You know, for most of us, as soon as you say the words Gulf Coast, we start thinking about seafood and your beaches, you know, that’s immediately where our minds go to and please feel free to describe kind of the uniqueness of, of the coastal Mississippi beaches. But I know that there’s way more than just the beaches. We’re starting to touch on some of those attractions and things travelers can experience. So let’s, let’s deep dive into that if you will.

ER:
Sure. Absolutely. So our beaches are actually, the mainland beach area is manmade. So that was sand that was dredged from the Mississippi Sound. It’s again, 26 miles of beach front. So you have plenty of room to roam, plenty of room.

AB:
Now tell us what is the Mississippi Sound?

ER:
So the Mississippi Sound is the body of water that is in between the mainland beach area. So the mainland of the actual state and our Gulf islands national seashore or our barrier islands. So the Mississippi Sound is in the middle there. And it acts as a safe haven for our seafood, which is fabulous because it means that we have an incredible seafood offering. And it also protects those animals from larger predators. And it really is an incredible ecosystem. We are very fortunate to have it. However, like I said, the mainland beach front is actually dredged. So it’s manmade. We have the longest manmade beach in the world. We like to claim that, yes, it’s 26 miles of manmade beachfront. And then our, our natural beaches are the barrier islands. So those are the ones that you can get off shore to. And it really gives you that full gulf experience with the wave action and what you expect from your gulf destinations.

AB:
So Erin, there are a number of islands aren’t there along the Gulf Coast.

ER:
Yes, we have stuff for all. So you have Cat Island, which is toward the West and then you have Ship Island, which is where you can ferry out to. We do have a ferry that brings you there. It’s about a 40 minute ride each way. It’s a beautiful ride. Yeah. And then Horn Island, Petit Bois. So we’re really fortunate to have these islands and quick access publicly and privately that you can enjoy any really feel like you’re immersed in a deserted island in a way, right. There’s people there, of course, and everyone’s fishing and enjoying it just recreationally, but you can get away, you can get off the grid.

AB:
Oh, absolutely. I loved how earlier you were kind of talking about the art in history. You know, that is along the Gulf Coast there. Immediately my mind goes to Walter Anderson and speaking of one of those islands there, can you kind of talk a little bit about that too, for us?

ER:
Of course. So Walter is our most, really most notably most known artists from the region. So he it was based in Ocean Springs and we do have a museum that’s dedicated to his works and his life. And it’s also based in downtown Ocean Springs. It’s a really incredible experience, very visceral. We actually, you know, we’re very fortunate to have all of his works that are there and they’re, you know, mint condition that he was well known for. He would canoe out to Horn Island and sometimes, you know, during big storms or certain hurricanes or tropical systems even stay on the Island. And so he really became so familiar with its landscapes, with its animals that you can feel it in his works. And he’s able to capture the essence of our, of our Buffalo Island national seashore.

AB:
And there’s those museums that you can visit. That’s so great. Kind of tell us, you started to talk about the gaming industry too. Let’s, let’s talk a little bit about the casino life, cause that’s something, you know, not everybody has either that’s a unique thing.

ER:
Yeah. So our casino resorts are just immaculate. You can truly have, you know, if you, if you want to come here just to be on a resort property, you’re going to have endless experiences on that resort property. We also encourage you to get outside and, you know, check the other things out as well, but you can really couple that experience indoor and out out of the facility with, you know, it can be really distinct and it can be really unique every time you get here. One of the most well known properties is an MGM owned and it’s [inaudible]. And it was well known for its accommodations and entertainment. And obviously right now with coronavirus, it’s, it’s inhibited a lot of the things. But they are still, our properties are doing every human they can do to make sure your experience is very similar to pre COVID. Keeping everyone safe and healthy and encouraging that accountability and best practices and your health. But at the same time, they want people to be able to come and enjoy what they have to offer at each property.

AB:
I’m so glad you’re talking about being outside. If anything there’s a silver lining with all of this. Everybody has been getting outside so much more and the opportunity to come down and visit with you guys and get outside. You’ve got a lot of attractions as far as outdoor amenities, right?

ER:
We do. Yes, they’re endless. And as I mentioned before, right, taking the ferry to Ship Island that, that vendor in particular, that partner in particular is doing everything they can do to keep all of their patrons safe. So you can have a really enjoyable and safe experience whenever you get to the Island. And then of course we have, you know, endless waterways. So the Pascagoula River is available. You can enjoy the museum there and take a boat tour of the Pascagoula River. You can kayak our waterways really easily. And we have several vendors that allow for that. Fishing is a huge opportunity here, in shore, off shore, salt, fresh. I mean, we’ve got everything covered here. Really, you know, you can, you can enjoy a different outdoor experience for every hour of the day here. We’re very fortunate that way.

AB:
That’s so fun. I’m talking about every hour of the day. I bet a lot of people really look forward to enjoying the nightlife, and I’ve heard you’ve actually have some breweries too. Could you touch on that a little bit for us too?

ER:
Sure. So we’ve got several throughout the region. We do have one in Gulf Port that’s, that’s really well known Chandelier Island brewing company. And of course they’re taking every precaution necessary as well, but you can still go and enjoy a really wonderful brew. And, you know, you can talk to the brewmaster and learn more about the flavors and everything that’s involved, but then you can hop over to Ocean Springs. We have a brewery located there as well. And we do have some other brewmasters that, you know, make micro brews, so you can go to hops and growlers. Yeah, you can go. And they have like small batches available of really unique and distinct flavors too. So we do have plenty of opportunities for that. You can drink your way through the Coast in a really safe way.

AB:
Oh, that’s great. So fun too, and, and too, you know, there’s a variety of places that you can stay. You don’t just have to stay at a resort if you don’t want to. Could we talk about that a little bit where, where you can stay if you come to visit?

ER:
Sure. So we’ve got several properties that are going to be opening within the next quarter as well. And I know that a lot of people that maybe might be hesitant to travel or stay in, you know, stay in properties. Maybe they’re not quite sure the safeguards that are there. These are fresh and new. So we’ve got three that are upcoming, one located in downtown Biloxi called Hotel Legends that opens October 1. We also have a really cool offering in Ocean Springs called the Beat Neck and it includes four chalets. So you have your individual chalet and there’s a pool there. A yes, that’s right there in downtown Ocean Springs. And then there is also a boutique property opening in downtown Bay St. Louis. So you in quick walking distance to old town, all of the shops experiences, bars, restaurants. So we have plenty of things opening, but we also have boutique properties. We have, you know full scale. Of course we have the traditional what you would anticipate with Hamptons and Hiltons. And those lags are also here. So we have a really robust amount of properties to enjoy here.

AB:
Oh, wonderful. That’s great. I sincerely appreciate you painting that picture for us, that who have not yet had the opportunity to come and visit with you guys. Now we’ve touched on this a little bit in our conversation so far, but we do need to address the elephant in the room. You know, how has Coastal Mississippi been handling the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic? What, what measures kinda have been in place to keep your visitors safe?

ER:
Sure. So with everything that we do, we have to really adhere to government mandates, especially from our, our state level. So all the executive orders, you know, we are promoting and ensuring that our partners are engaged with as well. For us, we knew that we needed to develop something that would keep fears at ease for our travelers and for our residents, right? Because they’re equally, if not more important in their sentiment and how they feel about us inviting visitors to the region. So absolutely. And our frontline, right? So hospitality staff, we want to keep them safe and make sure that they know that they don’t, we’re considering, you know, everything that they’re challenged with as well. So for us, we knew we had to, we needed, we knew a trigger would be the health and safety. And with that, we develop the Coastal Mississippi promise, and that was in development with regional healthcare authorities. So we have three hospital systems that engaged with us, and we were able to develop a set of best practices based on the information that we were provided from the Mississippi State Department of Health, of course, the CDC, as well as US Travel Association. So we compiled everything, created some tool kits and additional resources. And we shared that directly with our partners so they could implement that information and they could ensure that their visitors, as well as their staff, knew that these are the best practices. This is how you keep yourself and those that are coming into your establishment safe. And of course everything that we do at the end of the day has to align, like I said, with those governmental mandates and certain businesses of course, are limiting their occupancy and additional sanitation measures. So

AB:
Yeah, Erin, how, how are your restaurants and, and beaches operating right now?

ER:
Yeah. So really there are there are very little limitations as far as open air experiences. Of course you can, you know, we, we encourage you to not be in groups of more than 20 outside. And then if you are socially distance yourself, right. So that’s, that’s imperative that we keep that in mind. So the beach front, you’re not going to see, you know, you’re going to see people spread out. Organically people are spreading out cause as I mentioned we have 26 miles, so we have plenty of room to breathe. And everything is publicly available. So there’s no private beaches, you know, everything can be accessed easily. We have plenty of parking bays. So you’re going to see people along that, that beach front and then secondarily, whenever people are going to restaurants, they just have to adhere to mask mandates. Or so we have a two week mask mandate enforced starting yesterday. So for the next two weeks, our governor is, is requiring people to wear a mask indoor and outdoor. So just keep that in mind as well. And then of course you have to, you know, with the extra sanitation and everything there are hand washing stations and hand sanitizer stations galore. So we’ve got plenty of safeguards in place.

AB:
That’s great. Oh, we appreciate you sharing that information, kind of easing our minds too about still making a trip. You know in closing, what message do you have for those who are considering a trip down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast this year, but might still kind of be on the fence?

ER:
Sure. So Gulf destinations are really well known for, again, the laid back atmosphere. The fact that you can really just disconnect and get away and get off the grid. And we certainly have those attributes so you can, you know, get away from every, all the stressors you’ve had to endure for the last few months, because believe me, we all, we’ve all been feeling that.

AB:
So true, Erin. Yes.

ER:
But at the same time, you can enjoy excitement with our gaming opportunities, with our charter fishing. You know, we have a lot of thrill seeking opportunities as well. So you can really create, you know, a very distinct and unique opportunity, a unique vacation for you and your family or you and your friends and get here and just have a few days where you can disconnect, get away and try some things that you’ve never done before. And it’s all in, in close concentration. You don’t have to drive very far. And again, we’re, we’re really affordable. We are a very budget-friendly destination. And I know that right now with everyone, having a lot of uncertainty that is also very important. So top priority, top priority is your health and safety, but we also want you to have, you know, your mental health and your emotional health. And that’s how you can kind of get away from things by enjoying a vacation. And we have everything that you’d ever want in a vacation destination.

AB:
Erin, you really covered a lot of topics for us. We sincerely appreciate you, you kind of giving us a really good insight into the Mississippi Gulf Coast. If, if you can leave us with one maybe attraction or thing that you recommend that we just have to have to try. Is there anything you would share with us that might be at the top of your list of things to do when we come down to visit?

ER:
Yes. so our newest hallmark asset or attraction is a Mississippi Aquarium, which opens August 29th. Bright, shiny, you know, super incredible facility where you can go where you can go and learn all about our ecosystem here and how we’re protecting the Gulf of Mexico, which is such a vital resource to so many. So that is our, you know, we’re really excited about it. It’s been years in development and it is going to be a very distinct experience. It’s going to be competing with other destinations that have stellar aquariums. So we’re so excited to have that in our backyard, and I know for one I planned to go and do yoga in front of the huge tank where you can see all the fish. So there’s going to be events that take place there too, like beer pairings.

AB:
What an experience. Oh, that’s great. Well, Erin, thank you so much for your time and your insight today. We sincerely appreciate it. And you’re making me want to come down and see you sooner rather than later.

ER:
Any time Anna. We want you to be here.

AB:
That’s great. Well, thank you guys. And again, I’m Anna Bell until next time I’m sending you all well wishes.

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