Holiday celebration begins tonight in Gulfport

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While Hurricane Zeta may have dashed any plans for this year’s Harbor Lights Winter Festival put on by the City of Gulfport, the department of leisure services to still determined to bring holiday spirit to the Coast.

Festive lights still shine throughout Jones Park, despite Hurricane Zeta taking out 30 percent of the Harbor Lights in October. Now, instead of the annual Harbor Lights Winter Festival, the City of Gulfport is hosting a month of holiday events as a part of their Holiday Celebration.

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City staff and the department of leisure services have been working diligently on creating a magical light display in Jones Park for visitors to stroll through. Department of Leisure Services Director Gus Wesson said, “Harbor Lights is one of our biggest events and biggest draws. And we just felt it was really important to have this for the community. Something small at least.”

The display was turned on Tuesday evening to kickoff the month of celebrations. Although the display may have been downsized this year, it still helps get visitors in the holiday spirit like Mississippi Gulf Coast student Raegen Stewart. “Honestly, this is my favorite time of the year. Like just walking around and seeing the lights, like the vibe is just like perfect. Like I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

For D’Iberville resident Lewis Austin and his two-year-old daughter Amelia, the light display provided a good opportunity for a Christmas father-daughter adventure. “My daughter. She is a big part of my life and so I’m just trying to let her experience new things that she’s never seen before. Basically, everything that’s going on in the world right now, you got to let her experience stuff while we still can because you never know what happens.”

Although it’s not the Harbor Lights Winter Festival, the Holiday Celebration light display still includes the iconic light tunnel, something visitors took notice of and appreciated for its normalcy in a year that has been anything other than normal.  MGCCC student Alyssa Pepper said, “And it’s not like all plans are ruined because of Zeta and COVID. So, I think it still like– it kinda makes me more Christmasy knowing that I can still do this stuff because people still took time to put this up when they didn’t have to.”

The lights will be on each night from 6 p.m. until 10:30 p.m., starting tonight through December 31st.

Holiday Celebration also features movie nights at the Harbor Market Pavilion and meet-and-greets with Santa every Friday and Saturday nights throughout the month of December.

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Grace Boyles was born and raised in Traverse City, Michigan, the “Cherry Capitol of the World”. She graduated with honors from the University of Michigan with dual majors, earning degrees in Communications and Creative Writing. During her time at Michigan, Grace broadcasted countless sporting events for the Big Ten Network, from baseball to men’s and women’s basketball to wrestling. Grace’s favorite sport to cover, however, was Michigan football from the sidelines at the Big House— even when it was 25 degrees and snowing! Grace is excited and eager to explore the Gulf Coast, meet new people, and learn more about this incredible community while telling the area’s news and sports stories.