BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- Splashing in the gentle waves was the perfect way to spend Memorial Day. For the town of Bay St. Louis, this weekend's Bay Harbor Fest drew an estimated 15,000 people, a good start for the vital summer tourist season.
"This Memorial Day has probably been the best that we've seen in many, many, many years," said Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame.
The mayor says new businesses are opening up in Bay St. Louis, and veterans like Trapani's Eatery from before Katrina are returning, and so are customers.
"People want to see the water, and they want to be in an area that is home town, which basically what St. Louis is," said Tony Trapani of Trapani's Eatery.
The mayor says sales taxes have been up 25 percent since December, finally erasing the losses that occurred during the BP oil spill -- a good sign for summer.
"If we can hold the 25 percent increase year over year, I think we'll have the summer that everybody is anticipating," Fillingame said.
And the mayor says New Orleanians have played an important role in the recovery of Bay St. Louis, only in part because they like to visit here.
"We have not only a lot of people that come over for the day, but come over for the weekend," said the Mayor. "Right now there is a tremendous amount of interest from the New Orleans community in looking for second homes back in Bay St. Louis."
"A beautiful place to live, you know," said former New Orleans resident James Bode, who now lives in Bay St. Louis. "Recovering, everything being built up here is nice. People are different. That's why I moved out here."
The mayor says the next economic engine for Bay St. Louis is the $22 million harbor expected to open next May.
"We think that harbor is going to be a phenomenal draw for the boating community from, really from Mobile all the way through the Pontchartrain Basin," Fillingame said.