“Our journey is one of remarkable progress. Even confronting natural disasters and economic transformations, our unwavering resilience carries us forward. Rising stronger and more unified through each challenge, Gulfport’s success is a testament to our enduring spirit.” — Mayor Billy Hewes
The city of Gulfport is set to celebrate its 125th anniversary this month, and officials have big plans to mark the milestone.
The city will host a picnic in the park celebration on July 29 at Jones Park, and revelers are invited to bring blankets, ice chests and food as they join the festivities. There will be a March of the Neighborhoods that will include participants from about 20 nearby residential communities, as well as live entertainment and kids’ activities. The festivities will end with a huge fireworks show.
By any measure, the city has much to celebrate. Gulfport is the second-largest city in the Magnolia State, but during its 1898 incorporation, it was a booming lumber town that eventually grew with the construction of the G&SI Railroad and the deepening of 90 the port. The city currently offers a myriad of cultural and eclectic restaurants, massive entertainment venues, thrilling recreational adventures and booming industry pillars.
Not even the pandemic could keep the city from progressing, with the Mississippi Aquarium opening in the summer of 2020 and quickly becoming a draw for locals and visitors alike. Activities like the Harbor Lights Festival have become beloved local traditions.
“Our journey is one of remarkable progress,” says Mayor Billy Hewes. “Even confronting natural disasters and economic transformations, our unwavering resilience carries us forward. Rising stronger and more unified through each challenge, Gulfport’s success is a testament to our enduring spirit.”
One of the city’s most vibrant and thriving landmarks is the Mississippi State Port of Gulfport, a waterborne commerce and an economic driver for the Gulf Coast that has seen consistent growth in recent years.
The maritime exploration and technology company Ocean Aero recently relocated and built a new 67,000-square-foot headquarters at the port’s East Pier, with design and buildout provided by AnderCorp and Machado Patano Design Group.
“AnderCorp’s mission is to provide professional services on transformative projects such as relocating Ocean Aero’s manufacturing and headquarters to the Mississippi State Port of Gulfport,” AnderCorp Executive Vice President Roy Anderson IV said. “Alongside our design-build partner, Machado Patano Design Group, we are proud to be a team member of this development, which serves as a significant milestone in Mississippi’s Blue Economy initiative.”
OceanAero was the first major private-sector tenant at the $600 million state-of-the-art port, which is also home to the nation’s newest primary maritime Center of Excellence: The University of Southern Mississippi Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise. The research and development center has partnered with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the Naval Oceanographic Office. The center has a strong focus on uncrewed marine systems and blue technology innovation.
AS MILESTONE ARRIVES, CITY GEARS UP FOR A GOOD TIME
The Gulfport/Biloxi International Airport is another source of pride for city leaders. As the second-largest airport in the state and a centrally located travel hub on the Coast, the facility easily sees more than 800,000 travelers annually.
But the city’s crown jewel is the $90 million, 50-acre beachfront Centennial Plaza, a once-blighted property. The mixed-use hospitality and entertainment destination parallels the majestic Mississippi Sound on the former site of the Veterans Administration Medical Center. The reimagined land use of the historic campus includes two distinct hotels, a pair of restaurants and event spaces that host frequent festivals. It’s also “Cruise Central” for America’s top annual classic car show – Cruisin’ the Coast. The festival is known as “America’s Largest Block Party” and hauled in a statewide economic impact of just over $36 million from out-of-town spenders in 2022.
Another point of pride is the $18 million transit development that is under way. It’s a pivotal project that will provide a public tram over U.S. 90, include paths for walking and biking and connect the Mississippi Aquarium campus to the green space of Jones Park and the small craft harbor. It also includes a 550-vehicle parking garage and should be completed in 2024.
With such a rich history and so many positive developments happening, it’s clear the city of Gulfport has good reason to celebrate.
“We thrive on unity, progress through shared dreams and building our future through collective efforts,” Hewes says. “I look forward to marking this milestone with each of you as we continue to write Gulfport’s remarkable story.”
City of Gulfport 125th Anniversary Celebration
July 29, 5:30 p.m.
Jones Park, Gulfport
Gulfport is marking its 125th anniversary with a big celebration, featuring live entertainment, food trucks, games, a bounce house, a March of the Neighborhoods that will include participants from about 20 nearby residential communities and more. Bring a blanket, lawn chair and ice chest to enjoy a picnic in the park, which will culminate with a fireworks show beginning at 8:45 p.m.