Lions and Tigers and … Geckos? Oh, My!

For the past few months, I've been getting frequent e-mails touting Gecko Fest 2004, a festival that celebrates Labor Day weekend while also showcasing the lovely uniqueness that is Gulfport. Of course, I was immediately curious — what would inspire a festival with a slimy, albeit cute, lizard as its theme? So, I did a little research.The gecko family contains 1,050 known species and some are parthenogenic, which means that the females are capable of reproducing without any help from a male. Many gecko species are kept as pets because of their enthusiastic consumption of household pests. Some Asian cultures even believe that if a Gecko calls from the bedroom of newlyweds, they shall lead a long and prosperous life together. (Did I mention that geckos emit a loud, distinctive chirping?)

However, none of these juicy factoids is what motivated the festival's inventor, Marlene Shaw. She was looking for something unique and whimsical and, after brainstorming with Frank from City of Imagination, the gecko was born.

The fun starts at noon on Saturday, Sept. 4, with a pre-festival party in the Art Courtyard Village (2908 Beach Blvd.) and live entertainment by Close Caption. The official festivities begin at 4 p.m. and attendees can check out the children's street area, which features face painters, costume contests, storytellers and clowns, as well as belly and Hawaiian dancers, a horde of pirates and wenches and even some fire eaters.

Dave On Drums performs from 4 to 7:30 p.m. on the main stage and the Island Boys play a few sets in the Courtyard from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. And then there's the parade …

The Gecko Walking Parade of wacky, costumed fun-bringers commences at 7 p.m., and concludes with hat, dog, and costume contests. As the finale, Gulfport's first-ever street dance, starring Hollywood Dave, begins at 8 p.m., and "Elvis" performs in the Courtyard.

For more information, go to www.geckofest.com or call 727-302-9299.

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