He turns his head as he floats forward.
Now, he’s looking at you.
With outstretched arms and sunshine sparkling in his eyes, he shimmies. Then, for dramatic effect, he freezes in place and bellows, “Happy 4th of July!”
Grinning, he twirls, his body draped in an American flag. Every inch of pavement along the parade route is his stage.
This was Brian Liggins in the Gulfport holiday parade being himself – the reigning Gecko Queen.
“I heard people calling my name and it was just fantastic,” said Liggins. “The applause was just there. It’s great to be a part of the love that is always here in this community. If I could, I would be queen every year.”
According to the application website, the honorary position of Gecko Queen “is a gender-neutral opportunity for adults of any age, 21 and over. What’s important is that you can represent Gulfport with flair!”
Faun Weaver, the city’s first Gecko Queen in 2013, now proudly holds the title of “queen emeritus” and she’s more direct about what it takes to be royalty. For her one-year reign, the theme was Gecko Night Fever or disco.
“Be bombastic! Be Bold! This is not the time for serenity and calm,” she said. “It’s really an honor to be queen. You put in a lot of hours and it’s all done with a smile.”
Weaver is also a member of the queen selection committee and is the first step in the application screening process. She says she looks for contenders who self-nominate as opposed to those who are nominated by others. Applicants must also be residents of Gulfport and be clear about how they would be the ultimate queen based on the changing annual theme.
This year, the theme is GeckoCon, “a celebration of comic book and pop culture characters, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and of course, geckos,” according to the official site for all things Gecko, Geckofest.com.
Six applications were accepted and a committee of about seven people chooses the queen.
“We had some really good people apply but we can only pick one,” she said. “For people who don’t make it, we want them to re-apply the following year.”
Gecko Queens make frequent appearances at Gulfport-related events in costumes that fit their mood and interpretation of that year’s theme, said Weaver. The winner has to have the right attitude, she said.
Brittney Sherley, co-chair of the Gulfport Merchants Chamber (GMC) Gecko Ball committee, echoes this sentiment. John Haugen is the other co-chair.
“The person who is chosen will uphold the values of our community,” said Sherley. “They will represent friendliness, open mindedness, fun, creativity and just be a good person that people in the community know.”
Who Will Be the Next Queen?
That’s a secret.
“I can’t say who it is but I can guarantee that our next Gecko Queen is very well deserving and people are going to be so thrilled when they see who it is,” said Sherley. “This person is everything that is Gulfport.”
The reveal and coronation will naturally be at a Gulfport-style costume ball on Saturday, August 25 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Casino Ballroom. Tickets have been sold out for weeks but Gini Fagan, co-owner of the Gulfport Beach Bazaar, 3115 Beach Boulevard South, has a waiting list. To find out more, call 727-381-8548.
What advice does Liggins have for the new queen? “Just be yourself. Have fun. Take it all in. It goes by fast.”