Hard Rock Guitar is one of many casino signs in Biloxi MS
The Hard Rock Guitar is the most iconic sign of any casino on the Mississippi Coast and although Hurricane Katrina played it loud, the sight of this giant red instrument still standing amid gray rubble in 2005 showed the strength of the southern Mississippi.
At 112 feet, it set a new world record for tallest guitar. It cost $1.9 million and weighed 95,000 pounds as it sat on a foundation 90 feet deep. Over a mile of neon was used to illuminate the sign and 175 gallons of paint was applied.
“They looked like Mardi Gras floats when they came down to USA 90 last Thursday,” the Sun Herald reported on July 14, 2005, as two of the eight pieces of the Hard Rock Casino guitar panel arrived for a change. the Biloxi skyline.
“Kojis & Sons Signs of Bunkie, La., designed and installed the panel, a replica of an HP Signature Series guitar from Peavey Electronics,” the Sun Herald reported. The design and build took 23,146 hours and it was assembled over five days as the crew worked around Tropical Storm Cindy and was completed before Hurricane Dennis landed.
The designer said he’s not worried about storms because the panel was built to withstand 180-mile-per-hour winds.
Six weeks later, Katrina struck. The sign was damaged but it was standing. It has been restored, along with much of the station which never had its official opening before being destroyed by the force of Katrina.
The station was rebuilt and officially opened on ‘lucky’ 7-7-07 as dignitaries and celebrities smashed guitars under the huge sign in a Hard Rock tradition.
The guitar sign has since since refurbished and converted with 6,000 linear feet of dynamic RGB programmable LED lights.
The Hard Rock guitar is just one of the casino signs steeped in southern Mississippi history. For 30 years, these lucky symbols have lit up the night sky or seduced locals and tourists.
Hope and love sustain the coast
Fifteen years after Hurricane Katrina, “Hope” and “Love” written in lights in Biloxi casinos during the 2020 coronavirus shutdown gave those stuck at home for two months encouragement that too would pass.
“A new addition to the night sky,” wrote Mary Cracchiolo Spain, regional public relations manager for MGM Resorts International, sending a photo of the word HOPE and a stretched heart in lights across the Beau Rivage facade.
The Scarlet Pearl and Harrah’s Casino towers also spelled out messages of support, and several of the casinos turned blue along with the rest of the world in support of healthcare workers.
Signs without words
The biggest sign of all came in the summer of 1992, when a pair of 1880s riverboats – Diamond Lady and Emerald Lady – completed a week-long trek up the Mississippi River from Iowa. As they reached Biloxi on July 19, 1992, they encountered an impromptu flotilla of fishing, charter, and pleasure boats as they reached Biloxi.
Two weeks later, the casino opened with a blast of steam whistles from both boats.
“It gave you chills if you were there,” said Rich Westfall, who drove Iowa’s riverboats and worked at the casino until 2008.
Other symbols over the years at Coast casinos have been a $4 million Asian dragon of good fortune that glows in the dark at Lady Luck Casino Biloxi that spits fire and roars, a coiled serpent at Palace Casino Biloxi and the colorful parrot that hung off the side of the Isle of Capri for many years.
When the island was transformed into Golden Nugget Casino Biloxi, the Hand of Faith, the largest known nugget of gold in the world, was moved from Las Vegas to be displayed in Biloxi. The nugget is a shiny gem at 61 pounds.
Old, new and never before arrived casinos
The past 30 years in Coast Casino’s history has been a story of openings and closings, celebrations and disasters, beauty and struggle.
Disappeared or with new names, Lady Luck, the President, Casino Magic casinos, Grand casinos, Imperial Palace and even the Isle of Capri.
Many changes came after Katrina revamped the casinos as well as the signs and symbols.
Treasure Bay’s mermaid and pirate ship are “sunk”, replaced by fountains and fire.
Casino Magic Biloxi is now Margaritaville Resort Biloxi. The Grand in Gulfport is Island View Casino Resort and Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis has evolved into Hollywood Gulf Coast.
Dozens of casinos offered over the years never got past the pretty picture stage.
Sports betting has brought a younger clientele and new excitement to casinos on the coast.
The landscape has changed and the way the game is played, but certain signs and symbols remain constant.
Flowers fill the atrium of the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino with color. The Lava Links Volcano is blazing fire for those who play golf at Scarlet Pearl Casino and Southern Mississippi Casinos, their staff and patrons will continue to celebrate victories and stay strong when the stormy weather arrives.