It has been going on for 17 years now and every year we meet people who are participating in the Cruisin' the Coast event for the first time and their response is almost always the same, “Wow, what an amazing event. I can't believe what we've been missing." Yes, Cruisin' the Coast is truly an amazing event. Rather than pack 7,000 hot rods of every description into a fairground, this event decided to spread them over 30 miles of some of the most scenic Mississippi Gulf Coast imaginable. Unlike most cruise nights this event actually involves driving, and for a week Route 90 becomes a scene right out of American Graffiti.

What began in 1996 with 374 cars registered to cruise Gulfport and Biloxi for two days has morphed into eight different cruise sites and over 7,000 registered cars participating in a weeklong event. Each cruise venue has plenty to offer, from good restaurants to live music, and hot rods fill virtually every bit of the respective towns. From the Biloxi Block Party to the Long Beach hot rod breakfast, there is always something going on. While you can manage to visit all eight sights on the Cruisin' the Coast program in a three-day weekend, it is a lot more fun to spend five or six days. This allows ample time to spend at least a half day at each of the scenic locations, and believe me you'll want to kick back and relax at these great venues.

By adding a couple of new locations to the cruise program this year traffic seemed to flow better. As you can imagine with 7,000 registered cars on hand and at least another 3,000 non-registered cars, traffic management can be a real challenge. This year there were alternate routes published in the event program and we found that with a little advanced planning we were able to go to our destinations with minimal problems.

Of course an event of this scope doesn't just happen. As a matter of fact, this year there were 700 volunteers and 12 car clubs working to make things go smoothly. It takes this small army of volunteers and some good old fashioned southern hospitality to manage a large swap meet, a car corral, an indoor auction, and eight different cruise sites. This year there was also a "meet the stars" of the reality TV show Counting Cars and the longest running classic automobile TV show was on hand filming an episode of My Classic Car with Dennis Gage. The fun continues after dark with several casinos in the area offering world-class entertainment, food, and gambling, not to mention VIP parking for hot rods.

We opted to spend our evening on the porch of one of the many restaurants, eating a generous portion of gulf shrimp, sipping a cool beverage, and watching the cars go by. Trust me, we were not alone. From this observation deck we saw several trends. First, the Tri-Five Chevrolet is still by far the most popular of all '50s cars, and there had to be a thousand of them on hand. Second, the old car hobby is quickly moving into the '60s and fullsize '60s cars seem to be all the rage, from flat-finned Chevrolets to Fury hardtops, these cars make great cruisers. Beyond that plenty of traditional pre-'48 hot rods and muscle cars filled the streets. The best part of the weekend is seeing this great mix of cars cruising together, from hot Model A roadsters to early Corvettes and '60s cars it truly is the world's largest block party. This is an event that continues to grow because it is simply too good to miss, and you can bet we'll be back next year as this is on our “must attend" list of events. Next year the 18th Annual Cruisin' the Coast will be held on October 5-12, 2014. For more information, visit cruisinthecoast.com.