Saturday night Gulfportians came out in full force at the Gulfport Merchant Association's annual Gecko Ball. This year organizers chose the theme Hooray for Geckowood. The event sold out, and a packed Peninsula Inn Attendees paid homage to everything from B-movies (well done, Gulfport Chamber Ladies!) to classics like Geckos of Arabia (that's not a sheik; that's glass artist Owen Pach!).
“Without question it was the best event to date,” Glass artist and Gulfport Merchant’s Association Vice President Owen Pach said. “We learn every year what we did right and what we did wrong. We have such a great dedicated core group of people who are dedicated to making this event the best it could possibly be.”
Almost 200 people attended the sold out event, and Gulfport Merchant’s Association President Mike McCue admits that next year the Gecko Ball may need a bigger venue.
“Capacity-wise, we have outgrown the Peninsula. We could have sold an extra 100 tickets last week,” he says, adding praise for the Peninsula, the current venue. “The Peninsula gave an excellent quality of food and service this year. The food was dynamite.”
McCue also praised Gecko Ball Committee Heads Jon Ziegler and Richard Radovic, who took charge of finding props and bedecking the Peninsula Inn.
“Their attention to detail,” McCue says, “made it go so smoothly this year.”
The steel geckos, personalized by area artists, raised almost $3000 with Pach’s gecko garnering the highest bid ($550). Pach’s personal sword, which he crafted from steel and didn’t initially intend to auction, also sold for $150. In total, the auction raised roughly $4,500, which the Gulfport Merchant’s Association puts directly into public art.
“100 percent of that will go into a new public art installation for next year,” McCue says.
Pach credits former president and longtime Gulfport supporter Leslie Gilchrist for the idea to put the proceeds into public art.
“She said, ‘Every year we give our money to charity, so why don’t we put the money back into the community, and specifically, why don’t we put the money back into the community [as] public art?’ and the seed was planted,” Pach remembers.
The ball is a precursor to the annual Geckofest, which comes to town this Saturday.
Take a look at some of our photos from Hooray for Geckowood and add some of your own!
Click here to view the slideshow.