BP Money Buys Sports Towels, Christmas Lights, Jingles

By: Mike Schneider and Melissa Nelson, Associated Press
By: Mike Schneider and Melissa Nelson, Associated Press

Panama City Beach, FL (AP) - Officials in the Florida Panhandle have spent tens of millions of dollars of BP's money on a mix of eye-raising purchases that were meant to help restore the area's tourism industry a year after the Gulf oil spill.

An Associated Press review of expenses shows Florida Panhandle tourism bureaus bought sports towels, fleece blankets, fishing and poker tournaments, music festivals, contests and millions of dollars in advertising with $30 million in BP PLC grants.

The promotions and advertising propelled the Panhandle's visitor counts to record numbers this year following a disastrous season last year after the oil spill.

But tourism officials are unsure if the boost will last once the BP money runs out in April.

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