Gulf Coast Winter Classics celebrates 25th anniversary, sees most participants in over a decade

This year, the Gulf Coast Winter Classics estimates its economic impact at $44 million.
Published: Mar. 12, 2023 at 6:43 PM CDT
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LYMAN, Miss. (WLOX) - As the Gulf Coast Winter Classics celebrates its 25th anniversary at the Harrison County Fairgrounds, it is also celebrating participant numbers it has not seen in more than a decade.

“There has been a lot of circuits that have popped up over the last fifteen years and we kind of lost horses here and there,” said event manager Bob Bell. “All of a sudden, this year, we have more. We had to put up a portable tent, which we have not done in twelve years.”

More participants also translates into more economic impact in the surrounding area. This year, the Gulf Coast Winter Classics estimates its economic impact at $44 million. The event runs for six weeks and many of the participants spend that entire time in Harrison County.

“People come down here even to get their tires changed on their rigs because it’s more economical to get that done. The dry cleaners are packed. The restaurants that usually don’t have big numbers in the winter are packed, too,” Bell said.

“This event is tremendous in numbers of visitation but also visitor spend,” said Judy Young, the CEO of Coastal Mississippi. “For those hotels, restaurants and attractions that need to keep staff on year round, these kind of events alone can keep them afloat until they can get to peak season.”

She told WLOX News, the Winter Classics’ 25th anniversary is a testament to the success of not only the event, but also the local businesses -- or ‘’front doors’' as she calls them.

“The show can be outstanding, but if the other front doors are not welcoming and open and friendly and very in to southern hospitality, it doesn’t happen. So, the coast’s glue is the coastal characters and southern hospitality,” Young said.

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