- Associated Press - Friday, April 25, 2014

OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (AP) - Ocean Springs will present the annual 1699 Landing pageant on Front Beach this weekend, and it brings back memories.

The list is long of important people who have held the starring role of Pierre le Moyne, sieur d’Iberville, for the spruced-up reenactment of the French explorer’s 1699 landing. There have been some costumes through the years.

Governors, high-ranking state officials, area celebrities - an actor, an astronaut, a refinery manager - and assorted dignitaries including a U.S. senator, a U.S. representative and a vice consul from France have all dressed in royal French Colonial outfits and played the part.

It started with Mayor Connie Moran’s grandfather Alfred P. “Fred” Moran in 1939, 1942 and 1954, surrounded at times by bathing beauties.

Since then, the event has played more consistently through the years. From 1974 to present, it missed only three years, two of those because of Katrina. And Historical Society board member Stopher Haug said the intent is to move toward more authenticity.

Actor Marco St. John said when he played d’Iberville, they made his costume to look like the famous Blue Boy painting.

“It was an honor,” he said. “It was great fun, terrific - a little weird.”

Among other parts for the tableau are Iberville’s right-hand man, his brother Bienville; Indians on horseback; a medicine man; a priest; and assorted supporting characters.

“We all smoked the peace pipe,” St. John said. “I handed it to them and said, ‘This is the good stuff.’”

St. John’s aunt Bobby Davidson Smith had a hand in getting the celebration on track in the 1970s. And in 2009, the 1699 Historical Society underwent an overhaul to reflect a broader mission to preserve and celebrate the unique culture and history of Ocean Springs and the surrounding Gulf Coast.

This year, the two-day celebration on Friday and Saturday will feature a 5K run, a regatta and a pet parade.

The landing party will be played by Chancery Judge Neil Harris as Iberville, Moss Point Mayor Billy Broomfield as Bienville and all the mayors in Jackson County in some capacity. Connie Moran will be the Queen of France.

The Landing of d’Iberville will be Saturday at Fort Maurepas Park on the Front Beach. Festivities begin at 3 p.m. with the landing reenactment to begin at 4 p.m.

___

Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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