GULF SHORES, Ala. and ORANGE BEACH, Ala., April 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Celebrities, elected officials, members of the Coastal Resiliency Coalition (CRC) and tourism leaders from the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach area yesterday came together at the Gulf State Park Beachside Pavilion 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.
"Supper on the Sand: A Celebration of the Gulf" featured a menu inspired by the farm-to-table concept showcasing Gulf Seafood and local produce. Guy Fieri, host of Food Network's, Guy's Big Bite and Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, served as the event's special guest host. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and several other elected officials attended the event in support of the Gulf's comeback.
The evening's fare was presented by local food celebrities Lucy Buffett and "Panini Pete" Blohme and the staff and students of Faulkner State Community College Culinary Institute. (Click here for the menu)
Special guest host Guy Fieri said, "It was an honor to be asked to participate in the celebration of the Gulf Coast's resiliency. 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. The evening was brimming with Alabama's famed southern hospitality and unforgettable cuisine."
Celebrating the area's resiliency and community spirit was the core mission of this event.
"The people of Alabama's Gulf Coast have been faced with unprecedented challenges, yet they banded together and wouldn't rest until they restored their beloved coastline," said Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. "Their resolve is a model for all Americans and I'm proud to join my fellow Alabamans to showcase our remarkable progress. There is no better way to celebrate the achievements of our dedicated heroes than with delicious Gulf seafood on our breathtaking white sand beaches."
"Our message is simple: our beaches are clean, our seafood is fresh 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, Baldwin 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 saw our snowbirds return in healthy numbers."
The sunset dinner paid tribute to the area's local heroes, who have overcome unprecedented adversity during the spill and its aftermath.
CRC Chairman Bob Higgins applauded the organizations that contributed to helping the area recover, including Share the Beach, saying: "Mike Reynolds and his volunteer crew received national and world-wide 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."
He continued, "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."
Supper on the Sand was 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 developed to help businesses survive, sustain and succeed.
SOURCE Coastal Resiliency Coalition