As soon as Toronto transplant Elizabeth Hendricks accepted the Gulfport Gecko Queen crown, she was ready to reign.
It’s not uncommon to spot Hendricks in lizard headgear at ribbon-cutting ceremonies, Gulfport events, and, most recently, leading the resurrected First Tuesday Gulfport Clothing Swap.
In Hendricks eyes, the Gecko Queen actually had few required duties.
“It was very surprising to me how little responsibility the title [had],” Hendricks said. “I thought someone would notify me when things happened, but there is no point person.”
Regardless, she makes an appearance.
“I see events on Facebook or in The Gabber and try to make it,” Hendricks said.
In addition to her Gulfport title, Hendricks will get coronated as a princess in the 2022 Royal Court of Pinellas County; her coronation takes place along six other nominees at the Queen of Hearts Ball on Feb. 19.
Each year, a lineup of local charities and service-based organizations nominate one woman as princess of the The Queen of Hearts Balls’ Royal Court.
For this year’s Ball, The St. Petersburg Women’s Chamber of Commerce chose Hendricks, the chamber’s vice president, as their nominee.
Each applicant submits a nameless resume, with only their volunteer work included.
“I applied despite the fact that I wasn’t sure If I was qualified,” Hendricks said.
Her resume included 17 organizations that she’d volunteered with since moving to the Sunshine State.
“I was doing all these things before I became Gecko Queen … I like to spread the word about good Gulfport events, I want more people to know about them,” Hendricks added. “I’m a natural networker.”
For the first time since pre-COVID, the Gulfport Merchants Chamber of Commerce Gulfport Clothing Swap happens every first Tuesday of the month in the Stella’s Courtyard.
“It’s a Chamber [GMC] event, but Elizabeth has definitely taken the lead on it,” said GMC President Barbara Banno.
The event invites closet flippers to the outdoor space to exchange and donate clothing. All leftover items get bagged and donated to Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA.)
Bringing the swap back wasn’t easy after a year and eight-month hiatus. According to Hendricks, the remaining clothing from pre-COVID, stashed away in a Gulfport shed, had deteriorated and the racks rusted.
While awaiting fresh racks, the first returning Clothing Swap had clothing draped from hanging lines at the Peninsula Inn.
“I just loved it, and a lot of my friends missed it,” Hendricks said. “I promote it and personally invite people so that we have a good turnout.
Jon Ziegler reigned as Gecko Queen from 2018-19 and like Hendricks, has a knack for wearing colorful costumes and glitter.
Ziegler remembers only three concrete events that required during his reign as queen: the Gecko Fest parade, the Fourth of July parade, and Pride.
“Things definitely evolved,” he said. “I helped spearhead the vertical oyster garden service project when I was Gecko Queen. Some people have kind of adopted that sort of thing … something to help better the community.”
The Queen of Hearts Ball Feb. 19, 6 p.m. The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art, 150 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. $150. queenofheartsball.org