GULF SHORES, Ala. — Members of the Coastal Resiliency Coalition (CRC) and tourism leaders from the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach area have partnered to mark the Gulf Coast’s progress one year after the Deepwater Horizon explosion with a 500-person seated dinner directly on the white sand beaches.
Guy Fieri, host of NBC’s “Minute to Win It” and two popular shows on Food Network, “Guy’s Big Bite” and “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives,” is lending his support to this project as the celebrity host chef.
“It’s an honor to come down to Alabama’s Gulf Coast and participate in an event that celebrates this community. Shooting “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” over the years, I’ve spent time with the people and sampled the area’s food, and that is one spot-on combination,” Fieri said.
Celebrating the area’s resiliency and community spirit is the core mission of this event.
“Our message is simple: our beaches are clean, our seafood is safe and our spirit is strong,” said Johnny Fisher of Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s at Homeport Marina and a member of the dinner’s planning committee. “We faced great challenges last year, but our area united and we’re more than ready to welcome our guests back this summer season.”
Those challenges amounted to double-digit decreases for this tourism-based economy during its peak summer season.
“According to tax data gathered from state records, our beach destination became the economic epicenter for the oil spill disaster,” said Herb Malone, president/CEO of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, which is the official destination marketing organization for the area. “From May to August 2010, our county saw the largest decrease of 33.2 percent (-$58.3 million) compared to the other coastal counties in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Yet, we pulled off one of our best Octobers to-date and are seeing our snowbirds return in healthy numbers.”
The sunset dinner will also pay tribute to the area’s local heroes, who have overcome unprecedented adversity during the spill and its aftermath.
“Take for example Share the Beach,” CRC Chairman Bob Higgins explained. “Mike Reynolds and his volunteer crew received national and worldwide attention for their extreme efforts to save the baby sea turtles. Never before has a group shipped sea turtle eggs to be hatched and released on another coast. Other communities began calling this local team for guidance.
“Sea turtle volunteers are just one example of people who’ve stepped up. Counselors, community organizations, professional associations and certainly our local leaders have all been a part of bringing us though this past year.”
The dinner, a by-invitation-only event, will be held at the Gulf State Park beachside pavilion.
Supper on the Sand is sponsored by the Coastal Resiliency Coalition, a joint effort of local Chambers of Commerce and governments, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, Faulkner State Community College and Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance.