Decked out boats, racing vessels and local vendors attracted enormous groups of people this past weekend of Friday, March 29 to Sunday, March 31.
It was the 3rd annual Grand Prix of Gulfport, and over 50,000 people visited downtown Gulfport over the three-day event, according to Cultural Facilities Events Supervisor Justin Shea.
“Never have we had this event during the tourism season,” Shea said. “It gets better each year.”
According to organizers, all proceeds from the event will go to the Michael J. Yakes Foundation, a Gulfport-based non-profit that benefits local children and senior citizens who are in need.
“The event organizers did a great job of setting it all up,” said City Manager Jim O’Reilly. “It was very well planned out.”
The event spotlighted racers on Saturday and Sunday, with jet ski shows throughout the intense racing. Each day ended with a slow-paced boat show as the sun was setting.
“It was a very positive event,” said O’Reilly.
“Ultimately, we do this for the economic impact that it brings to town,” Shea said. “And from a marketing standpoint, the city looked beautiful.”
According to preliminary results from a Gulfport Merchants Chamber survey created to gauge the economic impact of the event on local businesses, the reaction of the 14 businesses who responded to questions so far was decidedly mixed. Only three of the businesses said they saw an increase in customers visiting their establishment during the Grand Prix; one business reported a “slight increase” in sales, while two reported a “significant increase.”
Photos by Joe Mestas: See more photos at joemestas.com/Boat-Races/GPGP2019/Boats or joemestas.com/Boat-Races/GPGP2019/Jet-Ski-and-Misc/