The Mississippi Gulf Coast will be getting a taste of royalty this week.
Croatian President Zoran Milanović will be visiting Biloxi on Friday. Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich announced that the European leader is making a stop at the Mississippi city alongside six ministers from the foreign nation while on the way to witness the brand new Croatian House culture center in Belle Chase, La. on Saturday.
During Milanović’s visit to Biloxi, Gilich plans to take the diplomat to the city’s Croatian-American Cultural Center to connect with the longstanding Croatian community on the Gulf Coast. Gilich will also show the president around Biloxi to highlight the city’s history and culture.
In showcasing the Gulf Coast’s dining scene, the mayor plans to take the foreign visitors to Mary Mahoney’s Old French House Restaurant — a historic dining facility founded by the daughter of Croatian immigrants — for lunch.
“We’re going to be visiting, doing some photo ops, answering questions, and showing him a little bit about our culture, history, and how this community established itself,” Gilich told SuperTalk Mississippi News.
Milanović’s interest in Biloxi was spurred by a visit by Pjer Šimunović, the Croatian Ambassador to the U.S., made to the Mississippi city last year.
Biloxi has a rich history of Croatian immigration, with people from the foreign nation planting their roots on the Gulf Coast as early as the late 19th century, mainly to pursue a career in the seafood industry.
“That’s when all the migration from what was a challenged Europe to pursue fertile grounds and economic opportunity [began],” Gilich stated. “That first French Quarter of the 20th century all the way through the 21st century has been very rewarding and successful for both the community and the group of Croatians and descendants [in Biloxi].”
Gilich, a descendant of Croatian immigrants, has been to the European country. The mayor took his family on a trip to Split, the island his ancestors came from, in 2018 to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary.
Gilich was able to experience the electric atmosphere of the country while the Croatian national soccer team was on its historic run in the FIFA World Cup. Croatia’s stint ended in a 4-2 loss to France in the World Cup Final.