Do This: GeckoFest

Tips and background info on today's big shindig in Gulfport.

click to enlarge MERRY INSANITY: Costumed revelers at last year's GeckoFest. - COURTESY OF GECKOFEST
MERRY INSANITY: Costumed revelers at last year's GeckoFest.

Get your Gecko on this weekend with GeckoFest, the Gulfport end-of-summer street party where costumes are encouraged, families are welcome, and anything goes. The annual celebration of Gulfport runs from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. this Saturday, September 5. 

Think of GeckoFest as a free street party with live music, food, gecko parade, kids activities, and buskers roaming downtown Gulfport, their only intention to make you smile, laugh, and otherwise enjoy yourself. Gulfport's mayor, Sam Henderson (who is also the local bartender and part of the band Hot Tub Club, because, well, Gulfport), will lead a walking parade that includes anyone who wants to join. This, we should note, is not your father's parade. Politicians to a the tuba player for the now-defunct Fallopian Tubes join together in a rousing speed-walk (we think that part's unintentional, but the parade does move at a pretty fast clip) up and down Beach Boulevard. The Gecko Queen and her court as well as the O-fish-al Gecko Goddess will also grace the parade with their presence. This year's Gecko Queen, the third such crowned deity in Gulfport, will prance down beach with the parade.

Fifteen years ago, organizers started GeckoFest as an end of summer celebration. They called it "Gecko Fest and Mullet Mutiny" and it continues to this day, only now it has a whole "season" of gecko-world preceding it: the Gecko Art Show, the Gecko Pub Crawl, and the Gecko Ball.  This year, the theme is "Gecko Gras," directly referencing the event it's been most often compared to. 

Some tips from our Gecko Season Guide:

Stay hydrated. Sure, you can get beer and booze anywhere along Beach Boulevard, but throw in some water, too. The Gulfport Fire Department has a special all-terrain vehicle that can worm its way through the crowds, purchased specifically for events like this for people who may not think to drink water during their day in the sun.

Don't even think you're going to park close to the event. The Gulfport City Council will allow the city trolley to take you to remote parking lots, or park a few blocks off Beach Boulevard (mind the signs) and plan to walk. You'll be doing plenty of that anyway.

Bring cash. Not every art or craft booth will have a Square, so come prepared. The Casino has an ATM outside, but isn't it easier not to wait in line?

Heading to a restaurant? Expect to wait. GeckoFest is one of the city's two busiest days of the year, restaurant-wise. Every restaurant is locally owned and really wants everyone to have a good time, but with nine zillion and a half people on two streets, you may have to wait. And, really, folks, today isn't the day to make special requests in the kitchen.

Bikes welcome. Seriously, if you can bike it, do so. Gulfport has plenty of bike parking, and if you can do your part to not clog the remote lots, you get extra karma.

Pets welcome. Feel free to bring your furry friend, but remember: Your dog may need a break and will definitely need water. Plenty of local businesses will have dog bowls, but remember to give your dog a break from the sun and get them into one of Gulfport's pet-friendly businesses, or take a break at Salty's, Gulfport's pet-friendly bar (also, they have Skee Ball).

Bring the kids. Or don't. The Art Village Courtyard (halfway between the library and the water) will have a kids area until 8 p.m., so head there with your kids. And Salty's, that dog bar? They welcome kids, too, with giant Jenga games and other ways to keep the kids occupied. No kids? No problem, of course. 

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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