GeckoFest brought a deluge of fun to downtown Gulfport on Saturday September 3. Streets that had been flooded just a day before by Hurricane Hermine played host to thousands of people enjoying one of the city’s premier street fairs.
Visitors still had to jump over puddles, cars seeking parking spaces encountered flooded streets, the weather was hot and muggy, and it rained early in the day – but the show went on.
Thousands thronged Beach Boulevard, shopping for arts and crafts at dozens of vendors and chowing down on BBQ, funnel cakes and liquor-laden popsicles. Street performers entertained the crowds, bands played at stages at each end of the street, people danced, and the silver statue lady sat quietly viewing it all. The balloon man cranked out colorful hats and animals in overdrive.
GeckoFest coordinator and promoter Suzanne King said Monday that the weather had some effect on the end-of-summer festival, including a downpour around 10 a.m. that delayed the kickoff for about two hours.
“Attendance and sales were a little lighter than normal due to the fact that people all around us were having weather issues,” she said. Police estimates in the past have ranged up to 35,000 visitors, she said.
Other than that, “everything went according to schedule,” King said.
In a news release Friday, September 2, the Gulfport Merchants Association, which sponsors the event, reassured the public that GeckoFest was happening despite the ravages of Hurricane Hermine. “The geckos may have been under the sea for a short time, but that will not stop the 16th Annual GeckoFest from going on as planned!”
The theme of this year’s several gecko events, “20,000 Geckos Under the Sea,” could not have been more appropriate for the aftermath of the storm.
A portion of each year’s gecko festivities, which also include a pub crawl, an art show and a masquerade ball, goes to local charities. This year’s recipients include the Gulfport Historical Society and First Florida Frontiers. King said some of this year’s proceeds might also be earmarked for artwork to “pretty-up” the city’s trolley and bus stops and brochures to promote local businesses.