The notice went out on Facebook for a Saturday, December 14 inaugural gathering called the “Gulfport Santa Rampage” and organizer Lesley Smith hoped it would be something of interest to at least a few people – mostly, her friends.
“Grab your best Santa costume and your Christmas spirit,” said the social media announcement. “Get your Creative Claus on and get ready to elf things up as we take over the town and paint it red.”
The official 5:30 p.m. gathering spot at Isabelle’s, 2937 Beach Blvd., was so crowded that it was difficult for local documentary photographers to take photos.
“I thought it was going to be 20 to 30 people,” said Smith. “This is amazing and exciting. It’s a citywide party!”
To include the energetic crowd of nearly 100 in the 6 p.m. commemorative group photo at the Gulfport Casino Ballroom, 5500 Shore Blvd., photographers with wide-angle lenses had to stand back into the street intersection while stopping traffic.
Afterward, the party continued into the night starting with the annual Boca Ciega Yacht Club’s Lighted Boat Parade that began at about 6:30 p.m.
“I like how everybody in Gulfport is free to be whoever they want to be,” said participant Beth Stombaugh who was on her way to nearby Williams Pier to find a good vantage point for the parade.