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Press Releases
Nine Local Artists Create Geckos for Charity Auction

June 11, 2015: For Immediate Release
Contact:  Michael Gauthier; (207) 312-4317; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


GULFPORT, FL: Nine larger-than-life geckos will be the centerpiece of a live auction to benefit local charities. 

Each of the large geckos, measuring approximately three feet long, will be created and decorated in a variety of media by local artists.  The geckos are now being constructed by the artists and all will be on display in locations throughout the Gulfport Waterfront District as of July 4th.  The art pieces will be auctioned during the seventh annual Gecko Ball on Saturday, August 29th.  Each gecko will be a prized collector’s art work and join the ranks of nearly 50 other geckos that have been created since the event’s inception.  Organizers initiated the Artists’ Gecko Auction six years ago with much success and the auction is now a popular part of the tradition of annual Gulfport Gecko-related activities in late summer.

Artists selected to create geckos for this year’s auction are Janet Folsom, Denise Keegan, Lenne’ Nicklaus-Ball, Owen Pach, Tom Pitzen, John Ricci, Jonathan Schork, Frank Strunk III, and Matt Worsham.

The nine finished geckos will be on display at these nine Gulfport locations in the weeks leading up to the Gecko Ball:  Domain Home Accessories & Gallery, Gulfport Beach Bazaar, Little Tommie’s Tiki, Mangia Gourmet, Philanthropee, Pia’s Trattoria, T and Me Tea Co., Tangelo’s Grille, and Yummy’s.  Advance bids will also be accepted for geckos at these preview locations.  An art show featuring a variety of work by the nine gecko artists will be on display at Gulfport’s Catherine Hickman Theater, with an opening reception scheduled for Friday, August 7th at 6 p.m.

The annual Gecko Ball has become known as Gulfport’s Party of the Year! 

This year’s theme is “Gecko Gras!” evoking the color and pageantry of Mardi Gras, its costumes, music, food and fun.  In addition to the live auction of the artist’s geckos, the event includes dozens of silent auction items, costumes and costume contests, tapas catered by Ricky P’s Orleans Bistro, cash bar, live music by the Jammin’ Jambalaya Band, dancing and more.  The Gecko Ball will be held at the Gulfport Casino Ballroom.  Tickets are $35 each and are available in advance beginning July 4th at Gulfport Beach Bazaar (3115 Beach Blvd.) or online with a credit or debit card at GulfportMA.com.  A portion of proceeds from Gecko Ball, as well as Gulfport’s Gecko Pub Crawl (August 8th) and GeckoFest (September 5th) will benefit CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse), the Circle of Friends of the Gulfport Public Library, Daystar Life Center, and the Sonia Plotnick Health Fund.

Artists from Gulfport or with ties to Gulfport have volunteered their time and talent to create a gecko. 

Gulfport artist Janet Folsom is a passionate and experienced painter, feeling compelled to capture the spirit of her subjects.  She recently was awarded Best in Show at the AllFlorida Show at Morean Arts Center. 

Denise Keegan worked in painting before relocating to Gulfport a few years ago.  Inspired her new home town’s eccentricity, she has broadened her focus to include mixed media art that incorporates found and recycled objects.  Her art aptly named "Tossed and Found" pieces can be seen throughout Gulfport in private homes and businesses. 

Lenne’ Nicklaus-Ball has displayed her mixed media art work in public and private galleries throughout the Eastern U.S., as well as having been involved in over nine museum exhibits and several public art projects.  Her work has also been purchased by private collectors in the U.S., Europe and South America. 

Owen Pach was an established woodworking artist at the age of 30 in Ybor City when he discovered his passion for glass art.  His work is included in numerous private and public art collections, and he has inspired many of his students over the years to pursue their own glass passions.  He originated the gecko art auction event in 2010. 

Tom Pitzen was educated in art and design and went on to open a custom wood shop in Ohio, offering custom cabinetry, furniture and displays.  Many of his pieces for the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio travelled with exhibits throughout North America.  He and his family now live and work in Gulfport.  His first large-scale public art installation was created in 2009 and stands in front of the Gulfport Neighborhood Center.  His art studio is located in Gulfport’s Alley of the Arts. 

John Ricci identified as an artist at an early age while in grade school, though he was only able to create art work intermittently during his adult working years.  Retirement has allowed him to concentrate on his art, including jewelry design and sculpture.  He is also an actor and member of SAG/AFTRA. 

Jonathan Schork creates work within a wide range of creative processes including painting, photography, sculpture, couture, writing, literature, film and theatre.  He is an award-winning creator of public sculptures.  Light and sound are often incorporated into pieces that may otherwise have been “static.”  He calls himself an “alchemist” in his sculptural work, “turning something into something else.” 

Gulfport artist Frank Strunk III grew up around his father’s print shop, sparking his interest in machinery and its function.  The experiences proved to be a springboard into his art work which often incorporates machine parts or machine-themed concepts. 

GypsyCat Creations is the working name of the Gulfport art studio of Matt Worsham.  He creates textile-based mixed media folk-art inspired sculptures depicting whimsical animals, mythological or fantasy-based creatures and more.  His work is offered in local galleries and shops.  He also performs as a musician with his band D20 and as a solo artist.  He is a longstanding professional in his career of teaching art and music to adults with developmental disabilities.


All Gecko events are sponsored by the non-profit Gulfport Merchants Association.
  For more information go to www.visitgulfportflorida.com or www.facebook.com/geckoball, or contact Michael Gauthier: (207) 312-4317 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
Gecko Crawl Celebrates “Gecko Season” in Gulfport

June 11, 2015: For Immediate Release
Contact: Biff Lagan; (305) 923-1803 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

GULFPORT, FLORIDA: The eighth annual Gecko Crawl will help usher in “Gecko Season” in Gulfport with a poker run, an opportunity to sample drinks at six locations and a festive street party in Gulfport’s colorful Waterfront District.

The Crawl will be held Saturday, August 8th from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., with afterparty beginning at 9 p.m.  Tickets are now on sale.

Gecko Crawlers will be able to enjoy a beverage at these participating bars and restaurants:

  • Little Tommie’s Tiki
  • Mangia Gourmet
  • Neptune Grille
  • O’Maddy’s
  • Peninsula Inn
  • Salty’s

All are located within easy walking distance along Beach and Shore Boulevards.

Crawlers may start at any participating location and continue their Crawl in any order.

A Poker Run game of Five Card Stud will add to the evening’s festivities.

Crawlers will be dealt a free card at each location when they pick up their drink token.  One additional card may be purchased for $5 at O’Maddy’s when checking in at the end of the Run.

There will be three Poker Run winners:

  • Best Poker Hand
  • Worst Poker Hand
  • A Grand Prize winner chosen at random from all participants regardless of their poker hand.

Prizes include a two-night stay at Hotel Zamora on St. Pete Beach, a two-night stay at Sirata Beach Resort on St. Pete Beach, and a sunset cruise for two aboard the Boat Butler.

A high-energy afterparty will be held at O’Maddy’s beginning at 9 p.m.

Poker Run participants must check in their hands with Crawl ambassadors at the party by 9:30, and winners will be announced at 10 p.m.

Participants for Poker Run prizes must be present to win.

The party will spill out onto one block of 54th Avenue, which will be closed for the event, with on-stage live music and dancing.

A portion of afterparty proceeds will be donated to Gulfport’s Michael J. Yakes Foundation.

Tickets are available in advance for $20 each at Gulfport Beach Bazaar, 3115 Beach Blvd. in Gulfport.

Tickets are limited and purchase of advance tickets is encouraged.   If tickets remain available on the day of the Crawl, they will be sold for $25 each at all participating locations during the Crawl until sold out!

For more information, contact Biff Lagan at (305) 923-1803 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

A Gecko Art Show on August 7th, the Gecko Ball on August 29th and the GeckoFest street festival on September 5th round out the growing slate of late summer Gecko fun, celebrating Gulfport’s favorite reptile!   A portion of proceeds from all Gecko events are donated each year to local charities.  All Gecko events are sponsored by the non-profit Gulfport Merchants Association.

 
Public Art Dedication Scheduled at Gulfport Casino

April 6, 2015: For Immediate Release
Contact: Daniel Hodge; 727-366-4086; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Best Kept Secret

GULFPORT, FLORIDA:  A ceremony to dedicate a public art piece in front of the historic Gulfport Casino will take place on Saturday, April 18th at 6:30 p.m. 

The sculpture entitled “Best Kept Secret” by artist Stephen Oliver was commissioned by the Gulfport Merchants Association (GMA) and installed late last year.  Mr. Oliver as well as City of Gulfport and GMA officials will attend the dedication.  The public is invited to join the gathering. 

Best Kept Secret” is one of a growing number of public art installations that have been added to the Gulfport landscape in recent years.  The Casino is located at 5500 Shore Boulevard South.

Read more...
 
Gulfport Merchants Association Announces Grant Recipients

April 1, 2015: For Immediate Release
Contact: Daniel Hodge; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; (727) 366-4086

GULFPORT, FLORIDA: The Gulfport Merchants Association (GMA) has announced its selection of recipients for 2015 Community Support Grants. 

Four organizations were chosen to receive grants that will be funded by a portion of proceeds from the GMA’s trio of “Gecko Events” in late summer:  the Gecko Pub Crawl on Saturday, August 8th, the Gecko Ball on Saturday, August 29th, and GeckoFest on Saturday, September 5th.  Grant amounts will be determined after conclusion of the events.

The recipients chosen by the GMA Board of Directors are non-profit organizations which are either based in Gulfport, or include Gulfport in their service area. 

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Call to Artists Announced for Creation of Geckos

March 17, 2015:  For Immediate Release
Contact: Daniel Hodge; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; (727) 366-4086


GULFPORT, FLORIDA:  The committee producing Gulfport’s 7th Annual Gecko Ball has announced a call to artists for the creation of larger-than-life geckos to be auctioned during the event on August 29th. 

The live auction of artist-created geckos has become a much-anticipated Gecko Ball tradition.  Seven artists will be chosen to create geckos for the Ball this year.

Geckos may be created from any material(s) but the format must be a three-dimensional or sculptural piece within the range of two to four feet in length. 

Steel forms that have been used as a starting point for all geckos in previous years are still available to any of the artists chosen if they wish to incorporate the steel form into their gecko creation.  Use of the steel form is no longer required.  Artists should clearly state that the gecko they create is either intended for indoor display only or suitable for display in outdoor weather conditions.  Except for steel forms, artists are responsible for purchasing any materials needed to create their designs.  Selected artists must complete their geckos no later than June 15th. 

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Bark-B-Que to Benefit Gulfport’s Get Rescued

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 11, 2015


Who: Gulfport Merchant’s Association
What: Bark-B-Que to Benefit Gulfport’s Get Rescued
When: March 21, 2015; 10am to 5pm
Where: 5413 Shore Blvd. South, Gulfport, FL 33707


GULFPORT, FL: The 2nd annual Bark-B-Que has been reorganized and will take place on March 21 from 10 AM to 5 PM.  The fundraising event was rescheduled in response to the call from the community after the 11th annual Gulfport’s Get Rescued closed early because of inclement weather.


Hamburgers, hot dogs and “Doggie Daiquiris” are on the menu. A donation of $5.00 will get you a burger, a bag of chips and a soda, or two hotdogs, a bag of chips and a soda.  All-natural frozen treats for the pups and Jell-O shots for fur-parents will be available for $2.00.  We’ll have your sweet tooth covered as well, with a wide variety of goodies available at the Bake Sale. 


A “Pick-A-Prize” raffle and a silent auction with a wonderful selection of items from our very generous donors will benefit rescue groups who participated in the February 28 event. 


Animal rescue groups will offer pet education and adoptions, and pet-related vendors, artists and crafters will be on hand to offer their wares to event-goers.


The Bark-B-Que is sponsored by Salty’s, Stella’s Deli, O’Maddy’s and The Tampa Bay Adventures Meet Up group. Bring your fur-babies and check out Salty’s digs at 5413 Shore Blvd. Well behaved pets and their leashed people are welcome! The event is free for the public to attend, with plenty of free parking in and around the area.


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Gulfport Merchants Association Board Announced

The Gulfport Merchants Association is pleased to announce the following new appointees to its Board of Directors: 

  • Joe Guenther, O’Maddy’s Bar & Grille
  • Fred Metzler, Salty’s Gulfport
  • Chris Spencer, Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market
  • John Haugen, Hudson Marketing Services
  • Christopher Ross, Christopher Ross, ASLA
  • Paul Ray, Tropics Software Technologies

These appointees join continuing Board Members:

  • Lori Rosso, Sea Breeze Manor Bed and Breakfast Inn, President
  • Biff Lagan, Gulfport Beach Bazaar, Treasurer
  • Suzanne King, SIK Promotions
  • Scott Linde, Lizard Licks and Mangia Gourmet
  • Mike McCue, Domain Home Accessories & Gallery
  • Daniel Hodge, Freelance Writer
  • Michael Knettel, Domain Home Accessories & Gallery

The mission of the Gulfport Merchants Association is to promote the well being of all member businesses located in Gulfport’s Historic Waterfront and Arts District in an atmosphere of sharing and cooperation with its neighbors. 

The Association’s meetings are open to all interested parties on the first Monday of the month at 6 p.m. in rotating member locations.  Mixers will be held quarterly on the third Monday.

 
GMA Collects for Operation Santa; Caps Off Year of Giving Back

Throughout 2014, the GMA was able to donate over $27,000 to charitable causes through proceeds from its events, including "Gulfport's Get Rescued," "Gecko Pub Crawl," "Gecko Ball," "GeckoFest," "Holiday Hoopla" and the monthly Free Clothing Swap.


Gulfport Merchants Association (GMA) volunteer Sherry Lynn (left) and Board Member Suzanne King present gifts for children collected for Operation Santa during GMA's "Holiday Hoopla" event.

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Call for Applicants for Gulfport Community Support Grants

For Immediate Release: January 6, 2015

Call for Applicants for Gulfport Community Support Grants


Contact: Daniel Hodge; (727) 366-4086; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

GULFPORT, FLORIDA:
The Gulfport Merchants Association (GMA) has announced a call for applicants for its 2015/2016 community support program. 

Local non-profit organizations that target or include Gulfport in their activities are invited to apply.  This includes certified tax-exempt non-profit organizations, government entities requesting funds for public purposes, schools and colleges at any level, or organizations with a proposed project that benefits the community at large.

For more details and to apply, click here for the application

Submission of an application does not guarantee funding and the Board of the GMA reserves the right to determine or adjust the amount awarded to any recipient.  The deadline to apply for a community support grant is February 28, 2015.  Applications received after the deadline cannot be considered.  Decisions on recipients are scheduled to be made by March 31.  


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GeckoFest Offers a Day of Entertainment on Stages and Streets

August 12, 2014: For Immediate Release

Contact: Daniel Hodge; (727) 366-4086; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

GULFPORT, FLORIDA: Gulfport’s 14th Annual Geckofest will bring entertainment to streets and stages during a daylong spectacle on Saturday, August 30th.

Amid the thousands of festival-goers, hundreds of vendors and dozens of live musicians on two stages, expect to come face to face with acrobats, aerialists, break dancers, escape artists, magicians, jugglers, fire performers and more, creating an interactive circus atmosphere throughout the waterfront village. All festivities take place on Beach Boulevard in Gulfport from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. GeckoFest is free and family-friendly.

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GeckoFest Volunteers Needed

Contact: Chris Spencer; (727) 902-2326; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

GULFPORT, FLORIDA:  Dozens of volunteer opportunities are still available for GeckoFest this year on Saturday, August 30th.

Gulfport’s largest street festival of the year attracts over 30,000 people and event organizers rely on the help of hundreds of volunteers to sustain its success.

Volunteer shifts are typically two hours long and are available throughout the day from 6:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.

Positions are available for all ages and abilities from teens to seniors, whether you like to organize or sell, are active and energetic, need to sit down, are shy or a social butterfly, like a steady or a fast pace.

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GMA Community Support Application

The Gulfport Merchant’s Association (GMA) believes in giving back to the local community.  Through the Community Support  program, the GMA helps fund the needs of our community by providing grants to local Gulfport organizations throughout the year.

Before applying, please note:

  • The application deadline to apply for the 2015/2016 cycle is June 20, 2015.
  • Organizations must be described as one of the following:
    • An organization holding a current tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3), (4), (6) or (19) of the Internal Revenue Code;
    •  A recognized local government entity: including law enforcement or fire departments, that are requesting funds exclusively for public purposes;
    • A local public or private school, charter school, community/junior college, state/private college or university; or
    • An organization with a proposed project that benefits the community at large.
  • Applications must be completed in full and submitted in writing to be considered.
  • Submitting an application does not guarantee funding.
  • The GMA Board reserves the right to adjust the amount awarded to each organization without prior notice.

Read more...
 
Connections drive Gulfport artist's winning design

Tampa Bay Times - May 8, 2014

By Diane Craig, Times Correspondent

GULFPORT — Stephen Oliver can't help himself. He sees connections everywhere. Listening to him explain how he came to design his winning sculpture for the Gulfport Casino is to peek into a creative mind that sees endless relationships between architecture, public art, culture, the environment, peace, African-American artists, the future, family and the past. Affinity, he calls it.

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