Island Aid concert raises Grand Isle's spirits

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by Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on July 24, 2010 at 6:24 PM

Updated Sunday, Jul 25 at 12:04 PM

GRAND ISLE, La - From overcast skies and rain, to the hot sun and steam that followed, revelers at Island Aid didn't let anything get in their way of a good time.

"It looks like South Beach out here, don't you think?" said Philip Toups of Thibodaux.

Click here to see photos from Island Aid

Grand Isle's beach opened up to the public for the benefit concert, which is taking the place of this year's Tarpon Rodeo. It is the first time in more than 80 years that the rodeo has been canceled-- all because of the BP oil spill. The tourism-based economy on the island has been hit hard. Bobby Pitre's art is depicting some of that frustration, through its oil spill-related images.

"It's just an urgency to raise awareness and just open people's eyes to see what's really going on out here," Pitre said, as he sold his art at the concert.

The concert, though, was designed not just to help the island's economy, but also to lift the collective mood of those who live there.

"It's not just an economic boost to these people, which is obviously what they need, it's an emotional boost," said Tom Capella, Jefferson Parish Councilman At Large. "Through hurricanes and oil spills, it's just been a real down time down this part of the parish."

That was the main reason people said they came to the concert: they wanted to help by opening their hearts and wallets.

"When they need aid, they need aid-- and I think I've bought every trinket that could be had," said Mike Nobile of Slidell.

"We came and spent a night and hope to spend the weekend and spend a little money to help out," said Hazel Dantin of Thibodaux.

Organizers set a goal of raising $700,000 through Island Aid, to benefit local charities and to launch a marketing campaign that could help revitalize tourism on the island.

"We want to be able to make sure that we can market grand isle once we get past this oil spill. Tourism is such a big part of what goes on here in Grand Isle," said Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts. "We lost the peak tourism months-- May through September-- so the whole idea is next time we're going to put one heck of a campaign on, to get the tourists back here to Grand Isle."

Organizers said they are now considering making the concert an annual event on the island.

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