History means old newspapers, sepia-toned photographs, musty charts… and now, in Gulfport, a road race.
The Gulfport Historical Society, whose board makeup has changed over the past year, launched a month-long celebration of Gulfport History Month last week with a “Gulfport: Then and Now” photo show in the Catherine Hickman Theatre. This Friday night, the month-long celebration continues with the Society’s first-ever Flying Mullet 5K and One Mile Doggie Dash. The race will start at the museum and end at Veterans Park.
“We wanted to do something different, draw in people from outside the city to downtown,” board member Christine Brown said. When the board discussed a road race, she pointed out that mullets have gizzards, which means “technically, they are birds,” she joked.
The Flying Mullet 5K was born.
“It’s different, no doubt,” Nicole Spence, a first-year board member, says. “But it’s a way to show people Gulfport. The board wanted to do something to show people that our history is what sets us apart from other Florida towns. This race shows runners some of our history on their terms.”
While Saturday’s birthday bash includes trolley tours past notable Gulfport places, the run offers a close-up view of some of the same homes on the tour.
The race wends through the Art Village, although the course keeps runners off Beach Boulevard out of consideration for the businesses, Brown says.
“The point is to bring people downtown, not choke off access to downtown,” she says. Instead, the board opted to end the race at Veteran’s Park, which lets runners, walkers and dogs explore downtown on their way back to their cars.
The one-mile doggie dash, Spence says, welcomes racing and non-competitive dogs alike. While there will be prizes for the winning dog, every dog receives a goodie bag.
“The doggie dash is meant to be more of a fun, social thing for locals,” she says. She’ll be bringing Dougal, an almost-two Australian Shepherd/Springer Spaniel mix to the dash but says she will not even attempt to win. “We wanted a easygoing event for locals, because dogs are clearly such a big part of our lives as Gulfportians. We don’t own them; they own us.”
That dog-friendly vibe reaches to include the after-party. Instead of a beer truck used at other runs, the Society opted to partner with O’Maddy’s, Salty’s and Neptune to offer a post-race drink to participants. All three establishments welcome dogs.
“We want people to feel history, not just read about it,” Brown says. “And Gulfport is really a town where you can get a sense of history just by walking around.”
Charlie Williams, one of the area’s last few mullet fishermen and the current mullet king (Williams Pier is named after his relatives), will have smoked mullet outside his house and be waving to runners as they pass by. He told the Gabber he planned to wear his full mullet king regalia.
The race starts at 5:30 this Friday night. 54th Street between 27th and 23rd Avenues South will be closed for no more than 45 minutes. Runners and walkers can register for either race, with or without a dog, at active.com. Search for “Flying Mullet.”