1¡1486174217¡2¡1486174415¡2¡2¡3¡2017¡Carnival Tours in the Bay¡***image1:left***¿0aIt's Carnival time – and Tourist Season – in Hancock County, and the Hancock County Tourism Bureau doubled down on Thursday with the first official tour of the season at the Visitor Center, located in the historic Bay St. Louis Depot.¿0a"I have fallen in love with Bay St. Louis," Lee Ann Matherne, of the New Orleans-based Diamond Tours, said Thursday. "This is one of our favorite places to come – they take care of us here. … I love it so much, my husband just retired and I'm looking at houses here. The food's great, the people are friendly and I love it."¿0aOn Thursday, Matherne brought a bus full of visitors from Deer Park, Tex., a suburb of Houston, to tour the Mardi Gras Museum and Alice Moseley Folk Art & Antique Museum inside the Tourism Visitor Center.¿0aThe visitors marveled Thursday over the Mardi Gras Museum's extensive collection of Krewe of Nereids Carnival regalia, all designed and hand-made by Bay St. Louis resident Carter Church.¡***image2:left***¿0aIt's Carnival time – and Tourist Season – in Hancock County, and the Hancock County Tourism Bureau doubled down on Thursday with the first official tour of the season at the Visitor Center, located in the historic Bay St. Louis Depot.¿0a"I have fallen in love with Bay St. Louis," Lee Ann Matherne, of the New Orleans-based Diamond Tours, said Thursday. "This is one of our favorite places to come – they take care of us here. … I love it so much, my husband just retired and I'm looking at houses here. The food's great, the people are friendly and I love it."¿0aOn Thursday, Matherne brought a bus full of visitors from Deer Park, Tex., a suburb of Houston, to tour the Mardi Gras Museum and Alice Moseley Folk Art & Antique Museum inside the Tourism Visitor Center.¿0aThe visitors marveled Thursday over the Mardi Gras Museum's extensive collection of Krewe of Nereids Carnival regalia, all designed and hand-made by Bay St. Louis resident Carter Church.¿0aVisitor Center tour guide Jane Byrne led the group throughout the museum, explaining the history of Mardi Gras, the way it is celebrated in Hancock County and the year-long, exacting process Church goes through to create each original gown, tunic or head-piece.¿0aByrne pointed to a pair of mannequins displaying the king and queen's regalia from the 2014 Krewe of Nereids ball and parade.¿0a"The king's tunic took more than 400 hours to create," Byrne said. "The queen's gown took more than 600 hours."¿0aDue to the extensive decorations, rhinestones, feathers, wiring and hot glue used in each piece, she said, they are very heavy.¿0a"The trains for the king and queen weigh over 15 pounds each," she said. "Their pages – their whole purpose is just to help the royal couple maneuver their trains."¿0aThe designs on the costumes are so intricate, she said, "I see something new every time I look at them. I'm amazed at the workmanship that goes into them."¿0aOne costume, Byrne pointed out, includes more than $2,000 worth of African ostrich feathers alone.¿0aIn addition to the expensive costumes, Mardi Gras krewe members spend a great deal on throws, as well. Krewe members can expect to spend a minimum of $300 per year just on Mardi Gras beads to throw from the float, she said, but most spend between $500 and $800.¿0aHancock County has celebrated Mardi Gras for more than 100 years, Byrne said, and the first official Mardi Gras parade rolled in the county in 1896. Byrne also gives a brief history of the local krewes to each tour group.¿0aShe explains that the all-female Krewe of Nereids, based in Waveland, hosts one of the oldest and largest carnival parades on the Gulf Coast; and that he Nereids parade each year is considered "the largest cultural event that takes place in Hancock County."¿0aShe also speaks about some of the other local krewes and parades, such as the Krewe of Kids, Krewe of Diamondhead, Mystic Krewe of the Seahorse and Krewe of Diamonds.¿0a"We're not going to miss a chance here in Bay St. Louis and Hancock County to celebrate Mardi Gras in any way, shape or form we can," Byrne said.¿0a¿0aThe Visitor Center¿0aThursday's tour bus was just one of many that will stop by the Depot this year, Byrne said.¿0a"We gave 65 tours last year," she said. "More than 25,000 people came through the Visitor Center last year. Of those 25,000, the people represented 48 states and 35 different countries who came to enjoy little Bay St. Louis.¿0aEach visitor on the tour is handed a set of Mardi Gras beads as he or she enters the museum.¿0a"When I explain to them what the Mardi Gras colors represent – purple stands for justice, green for faith and gold stands for power – it's interesting to see them look down at the beads around their necks to see who has the 'power,' " Byrne said.¿0aOn most tours, Hancock Tourism Bureau staff members walk visitors through the Mardi Gras Museum, the Jazz & Blues exhibits and "This Property is Condemned" exhibits downstairs, and the Alice Moseley Folk Art Museum upstairs."¿0aAfter that, Byrne said, "We take them downtown to see the Angel Tree, and point out all the great places in Old Town to eat and shop. Then they're on their own for about two hours."¿0aThe bus trips come from near and far, she said, and can include regular tourists, garden clubs, youth groups, senior citizens groups, Red Hat societies and more.¿0a"We can pretty much customize the tour for any group," she said. "They can call and we are more than happy to customize it for them."¿0aThe Deer Park, Tex., tour group seemed to enjoy its visit on Thursday.¿0a"We love it here," Texan Sandra Dixon – echoed by her husband Lyle – said Thursday. ¿0a"We love the Coast," Annette Sonniere said. Sonniere had been here before – she's a Crystal Springs, Miss. native who now lives in Texas. "Bay St. Louis is a very nice town, and Diamond Tours does a great job."¿0aThe Hancock Tourism Bureau also does a great job for Diamond Tours and all its visitors, Matherne said.¿0a"They really take care of us," she said. "This is my favorite place to visit."¿0aThe Hancock County Visitor Center is located at 1928 Depot Way in Bay St. Louis. You don't have to be with a tour group to visit. It's open to everyone, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The Alice Moseley Folk Art Museum upstairs is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Saturday.¿0aFor more information, call 228-463-9222; or go to mswestcoast.org.¡auto¡auto¡1¡jane_talks_to_crowd_for_web.jpg¡susan_for_web.jpg¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡Jane Byrne of the Hancock County Tourism Bureau on Thursday leads a group of visitors on a tour of the Mardi Gras Museum, inside the Hancock Tourism Visitor Center in the historic Bay St. Louis Depot. Byrne said more tha 25,000 visitors per year visit the center.¡Susan Duffy of the Hancock County Tourism Bureau on Thursday speaks with visitors at the Alice Moseley Fok Art & Antique Museum.¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡7¡2¡pm¡2¡¡1¡¡¡jane_talks_to_crowd_for_web.jpg¡susan_for_web.jpg¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡400¡288¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡230¡242¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡2¡Geoff Belcher¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡2017020310702¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡ 10612¡1486174460¡2¡1486174504¡2¡2¡3¡2017¡¡***image1:left***¿0aDonald Hillman¿0aDonald Eugene Hillman, 76, of Hattiesburg died on Saturday, January 28, 2017 at his home. ¿0aMr. Hillman was preceded in death by his parents, Dan and Imogene Hillman and one sister, Bobbie Lois Hillman. ¿0aHe is survived by his wife, Mary Frances Frannie Hillman of Hattiesburg; four sons, George Andrew Hillman of Tampa, FL, Christopher Steven Hillman of Tampa, FL, Nicholas Harrison Hillman of Tampa, FL, and Patrick Donivon (Jeniffer) Hillman of Bay Saint Louis and one daughter Morgan Justine Hillman of Kiln; eight grandchildren and two sisters, Sharon (Monroe) Legg of Gulfport and Kay Michels of Gulfport.¿0aA private memorial service has been held by the family.¡***image1:left***¿0aDonald Hillman¿0aDonald Eugene Hillman, 76, of Hattiesburg died on Saturday, January 28, 2017 at his home. ¿0aMr. Hillman was preceded in death by his parents, Dan and Imogene Hillman and one sister, Bobbie Lois Hillman. ¿0aHe is survived by his wife, Mary Frances Frannie Hillman of Hattiesburg; four sons, George Andrew Hillman of Tampa, FL, Christopher Steven Hillman of Ta