Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
ELMER'S ISLAND, La.-- For one year, Elmer's Island and its six miles of beach remained off-limits because of the BP oil spill. Anyone who wanted to go there to fish or swim was out of luck.
"It was very sad because a lot of us, that's what we do every summer," said Jennifer Fontenot of Houma. "You know, that's just how we enjoy our time at the beach, but we weren't able to go."
This Memorial Day weekend, though, is a complete turnaround from last year. Elmer's Island just re-opened on Friday and visitors began arriving early Saturday morning.
"We've been here since 5:30 this morning," said Clifton Rousseau. "It's been a long time since we could come here. We missed it last summer."
Richard Owen said he and his friends planned to first visit Elmer's Island and then head over to nearby Grand Isle.
"We're really happy about that -- to be out here having a good time on the beach," Owen said.
Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to Grand Isle's summer tourism season. One year after the BP oil spill, there is hope that this year, visitors won't stay away.
Diane Annison is one of those who is returning. The Grand Isle camp owner avoided the island last year because of the spill.
"I know for us -- we're from Zachary -- and we didn't come down at all," she said. "And other people that had camps here did the same thing."
However, Annison said, this summer she plans to do things a little differently.
"I think everybody, and me and my husband, we'll be back down here often," she said.
One the western tip of Grand Isle, the first of island's many summer fishing rodeos was just getting started on Saturday.
"The fishing's been incredible," said Mark Page, who was carrying several fish. "As long as the wind cooperates, we're able to do what we do best down here. Grand Isle's back."
Last year, the spill forced the cancellation of Grand Isle's Speckled Trout Fishing Rodeo.
"That was a bummer for me," said Bob Sevin, one of the fishing rodeo's organizers. "I was sick, because we worked and had everything. Our trailer was full of prizes and we were ready to go -- and they pulled the plug on us about a week before."
This year, organizer's re-doubled their efforts and sold 1,000 tickets -- the most in the fishing rodeo's 15-year history.
"The whole summer is gauged on what happens this weekend," Sevin said. "You've got three months to make money."
Jefferson Parish plans to spend $2.1 million dollars in tourism promotion. The money comes from BP and the state tourism office and the bulk of that, 75-percent, will be spent promote tourism on both Grand Isle and Lafitte.