It was all-around good, sweltering fun in Gulfport Saturday, September 1. With an average temperature of 89 degrees, the day proved to be hot, but it didn’t stop people from drinking, eating, shopping and dancing at the 18th Annual GeckoFest.
This year’s celebration ran with the theme GeckoCon, kicking off the day at 10 a.m. and wrapping up at 10 p.m. The yearly, end-of-summer event is hosted by the Gulfport Merchant’s Association and the City of Gulfport, with a portion of proceeds donated to local charities. Suzie King of SIK Promotions organized the event.
According to the website for SIK Promotions 35,000 people were estimated to attend GeckoFest 2018, but King could not provide the Gabber with an exact turnout for Saturday by press time.
“It’s too hard to gauge,” she said. “I think it was very successful. The businesses were happy, there were a lot of people and we didn’t have any rain, which is not normal.”
As expected, this year’s event brought entertainment for everyone, with street performers, live music, and even live painting at multiple locations up and down the Beach Boulevard. Twelve-year-old Michael “Mr. Sax” Smith trumpeted smooth tunes for passerby at the fest.
“I just love being able to be free and do whatever I want with it,” said Smith, talking about his love for the saxophone. Smith plays around the bay area and traveled from New Port Richey with his family to play at GeckoFest.
Professional unicycler and juggler Lucian Fuller wowed audiences, riding a sky-high one-wheeler taller than the street lamps on Beach Boulevard. The Acromaniacs duo, Kumiko Haito and Daniel Salas returned to GeckoFest, showcasing their gymnastics skills and posing for photos afterwards with fans.
Later in the afternoon, Alvaro Gordillo, (known to his fans as Bboy Arisin,) created a circle around him, pulling in members of the audience to help him “create the energy” for his breakdance show.
“The audience is the one who brings the energy,” he said. Bboy Arisin traveled from New York City to perform.
Another unique traveler to GeckoFest 2018 was Elphaba, a bearded dragon.
“We liked the theme and we wanted to bring her,” said owner Amanda Mole, petting her bearded dragon. “Most people ask if she’s real.”
Mole and co-owner Ken Roe hung out with their pet in the Blueberry Patch section of the fest, located near the Gulfport Library.
“Everyone always asks if she’s a gecko,” said Mole. Elphaba responded by spending a good portion of Saturday basking in the sun on top of a large Gecko statue.
Former Gecko Queen Joan Samuel jammed out to the band near the merch table.
“I always have a good time in Gulfport,” she said.
Vendors selling everything from embellished shell crowns to beer, local honey, plants and even kilts rounded out the festival experience.