About 430 people, most in costume, packed the Casino Ballroom in Gulfport for the 10th-annual Gecko Ball on Saturday, August 25.
Among the festivities was the reveal and crowning of the new Gecko Queen: Jon Ziegler of Gulfport.
Ziegler, known locally as a costume designer, was dressed as Geckoman.
“I tried to go with a superhero retro vibe,” he said. “The chest plate came down to a triangle that is reminiscent of the Flash Gordon kind of look, but of course with a gecko on it as opposed to any letters or lightning bolts.”
Brian Liggins, the outgoing Gecko Queen, led the coronation ceremony.
When Liggins leaned over to pass along the traveling queen’s crown and 2018 sash, Ziegler said, “That’s when I got really nervous knowing that I have some really big shoes to fill after Brian.”
The theme of Gecko World 2018 is GeckoCon, defined by the sponsoring Gulfport Merchants Chamber (GMC) as “a celebration of comic book and pop culture characters, horror, sci-fi, fantasy and of course geckos.”
The Gecko Ball is one of four events this year that comprise Gecko World: Gecko Art Show, Gecko Bar Crawl, Gecko Ball and Geckofest. Portions of the proceeds from Gecko World will benefit several local charities as identified by the GMC.
The ball also included live and silent auctions along with a costume contest for individuals and groups.
One live auction piece selling for $1,000 was entitled “A Reptile Dysfunction” by Gulfport artist Ray Domingo. It depicted a gecko riding a skateboard “partying his tail off,” said Domingo. The purchaser was Anne Janine Jochems of Gulfport.
A tile sign piece by Gulfport artist Tom Pitzen sold for $1,050 and was purchased by Mark Rickerson. It is similar in appearance and size to the city’s sign that marks the Waterfront District. Rickerson and his wife moved to Gulfport from Philadelphia seven months ago. They said they love the city so much he got a gecko tattoo on his left forearm. The Rickersons plan to hang Pitzen’s art in their living room.
“The artists who donate always seem over the top with their amazing pieces,” said Gulfport Councilmember Paul Ray, who was dressed as Wimpy, the hamburger-loving character of Popeye comic book and TV fame. “People seemed to really enjoy the event. I thought, over all, it was one of the best thus far. The ball committee does a fantastic job.”
Gulfport Councilmember Michael Fridovich said, “The costumes were fantastic. I was impressed with the creativity. A lot of people put effort into doing something really cool.” Fridovich was dressed as Waldo, a popular children’s book character who loves to travel.
Ziegler has been at every Gecko Ball either as co-chair or as a member of a planning committee. This year, what are Ziegler’s plans in his role as Gecko Queen?
“I’m going to do my best to do Gulfport proud,” he said.