GULF SHORES, Alabama — Alabama Gulf Coast officials were all smiles minutes before the latest Concert for the Coast began with Green River Ordinance at 6:30 p.m.
And though none seemed happier than the next at the turnout and smooth logistical execution of the show, which concludes with Bon Jovi performing at 7:45 p.m., all saw the event as a step in “the process” of bringing business and positive attention back to the coast in the wake of the BP oil spill.
Referencing the myriad small businesses “hanging on by their fingernails,” Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said it was hard to overemphasize the impact of the weekend’s events, which started with tonight’s concert and end with Brad Paisley on Sunday, with the Thunder on the Gulf powerboat races firmly in-between.
“It proves to them that as a city and a coastal community, we’re doing everything possible to keep them in business and keep people coming through their doors,” Craft said. “All of us learned early on we were not going to survive if we just sat back and hoped BP would do the right thing.
“We’ve got to save ourselves.”
From inside the VIP tent, Craft laughed and shook hands with crowds of people – many of whom he said own businesses along the Gulf.
“For a community that’s been under great stress, here’s a reason to be positive and enjoy an evening,” he said.
Standing nearby, Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon echoed that sentiment; perhaps for reasons of his own.
“The best thing about it is that Robert (Craft) had to do all the hard work, I get to come down here and enjoy it,” Kennon said.
He was excited at the news that many of the rental companies in Orange Beach were reporting 85-to-90 percent occupancies on a weekend when 20 percent would be about average. Gulf Shores numbers were comparable, with some condominiums reporting up to 95-percent occupancy.
“For October, that’s just phenomenal. I don’t know that I’ve got all the words to describe it,” Kennon said.
Linda Whitlock, president of the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce, smiled broadly at what the weekend’s events meant to an area whose busy season usually ends with last weekend’s Shrimp Festival.
“Oh my gosh!” Whitlock said. “To build on (the Shrimp Festival) and bring in these two concerts to bring in this many people is absolutely a home run for us and a huge shot in the arm for our businesses.”