By the time the Gecko Pub Crawl started Saturday night, Gecko Ambassadors were turning people away at the door.
"It went crazy," Biff Lagan, the treasurer for the Gulfport Merchant's Association (GMA), said of ticket sales. The GMA sold the $20 tickets for two weeks before the event, but in the remaining hours before the pub crawl, the event sold out. The Pub Crawl ambassadors welcomed crawlers to five restaurants and one bar: Cousins, Tea and Me, O'Maddy's, J's, Neptune and Salty's. The ticket entitled them to a drink at each location as well as one card in a night-long game of poker. Local artist Tom Pitzen went home with the grand prize, a stay at the Tradewinds.
This year marked the first that ambassadors, often clad in disco garb in homage to this year's "Gecko Night Fever"–themed gecko season, greeted crawlers at each location.
"It was a great event, and having the ambassadors at each place was just fabulous," Lagan said.
Gecko season has taken on a fever in Gulfport that has little to do with disco.
Mayor Sam Henderson moved here "seven and a half Gecko Years ago" and has attended all but one Gecko Fest.
"I really think that all these things catching on is because August has become Gecko month," he said. "You get something almost every weekend."
"This year's Gecko Pub Crawl appeared to boast record breaking attendance, from this participant's perspective," he said. "With such enthusiastic growth, I hope that the event hours will be extended next year to allow crawlers more time (and potentially more money) to spend at each location. I also want to thank all of the Pub Crawl destinations, and all of the crawlers who pulled out their purses and wallets to tip the hardworking bartenders and servers. Cheers to next year!"
Lagan said the participating venues "were beside themselves. They loved it, they were packed. It was just a great, great thing."
He added that he received numerous inquiries from beach hotels and motels.
Halfway through the 2013 Gecko Season, Lagan and the GMA already have plans for next year. Next year, he says, the GMA will sell Pub Crawl tickets online with PayPal, something the GMA tried for the first time this year with the also-sold-out Gecko Ball.
"Next year we are going to raffle two sets of Ball tickets at the Pub Crawl. They're the hottest ticket in town," he said.
The next Gecko Season event, Gecko Ball, will take place on August 24 at the Casino. Tickets for the event sold out earlier this month.