Gulf Shores: Gulf Shores : Beaches busy for holiday weekend

12:41 AM

Gulf Shores : Beaches busy for holiday weekend

GULF SHORES -- Holiday crowds jammed Alabama Gulf beaches Saturday as the long July Fourth holiday weekend began under mostly clear skies.

At the Alabama Gulf State Park around noon, green flags fluttered indicating safe beach conditions as the facility's pavilion began to fill with people.

Beach visitors said that even with high fuel prices -- Saturday's average per-gallon cost of regular gasoline in Alabama was $2.78, according to AAA -- they were unable to pass up the attraction of sea, sand and a family atmosphere.

Gas is tough," said David Wiggins of Mobile. "We used to come down here all the time. Last year, we came twice, and this is our first time this year. We love it, but a round trip is 120 miles, and you've got to take that into account."

He said that even though the trip is more expensive now, he could not pass up July Fourth at the beach. "We just like the beach, like coming here, and since we have a few extra days free, this is what we wanted to do," he said.

Beaches on the west side of Mobile Bay also were busy, said Linda Henderson of Dauphin Island Real Estate.

"Everything we have is rented," she said Saturday. "We've gotten about 20 calls today, but since last week and the week before, we've been completely booked. I don't think there's a place to be found on the island."

Saturday was hot and dry. Forecasters are expecting more of the same for the next few days and only slight chances of rain. Highs should climb into the 90s, but the heat index could top 100.

While the beaches were filled, some business operators along Baldwin County's coast said their tourist traffic was not up to levels they had anticipated.

"It's terrible," said Bob Patel, manager of the Pink Pony Pub on the beach. "The people are out here, but they're not spending. Maybe it's gas prices, who knows?"

By GUY BUSBY

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