Grab yourself a room-temperature glass of bathtub gin, toss on an old recording of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue
(1924), and prepare for the impending Great Depression, because the unsustainable extravagance of the roaring-twenties is alive and well once more with the arrival of this year’s 1920’s, “Roaring Geckos,” themed Geckofest, Gulfport’s annual salute to the end of summer
Here’s how you do it:
Start out with a pub crawl. Regimented drinking is a great way to limit your decision making while getting a little tipsy. It’s a great way to get out and meet new people too. If it’s sunny, sport a vintage bowler
hat to impress; or, if you’re a lady, perhaps an old French cloche
will do nicely. If you’re not into playing dress-up, then at least be keeping the twenties in mind — compliment the bartender’s hooch, be nervous about contracting tuberculosis or scarlet fever or about getting busted all blotto at the speakeasy by some teetotaling prohibition agent; and don’t forget to congratulate all the women on their newly acquired right to vote.
It’ll all be the cat’s pajamas at this year’s Gecko Pub Crawl. From 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., on Aug. 9, around the Gulfport Waterfront Arts District
, you can get a free drink, perhaps an old fashioned or martini, at six separate blind-pig establishments: Beach Haus, Little Tommie’s Tiki, Mangia Gourmet, Neptune Grille, O’Maddy’s, and Salty’s. Just make sure none are one of those seedy clip-joints before you walk in and start shelling out the dough. And feel free to visit each speakeasy in any order you please, there is no right or wrong way to do it. Just don’t forget to grab your poker-run card from the Crawl Ambassador at each location. Best five-card stud hand wins a two-night stay at the Sirata Beach Resort on St. Pete Beach. Prizes will be awarded, and a raffle drawn, at Salty’s after-party, from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Pub crawl tickets are $20 and available for purchase from the Gulfport Beach Bazaar’s Box Office.
Next, hit up Gulfport’s Saturday, Aug. 16 Art Walk.
It’s free and there will be oodles to do. You can heckle the hell out of the Harry Houdini-inspired street performers, or discuss Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Eliot, Dos Passos and the rest of the greats from the “Lost Generation” with some local authors who have set-up-shop. You can look around for art, amongst the plethora of works by local artists who will be in attendance, for something as meaningful as Picasso’s Three Musicians
(1921), or Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even
(1923); or pretend whoever has their cheeks inflated around the trumpet’s mouthpiece playing in the background is as good as old Satchmo, Louis Armstrong. The action kicks off at 6:00 p.m. and runs until 10:00 p.m.
All the artists, artisans, craftsmen, authors, entertainers and musicians, along with the throngs of enthusiastic Geckofest patrons, will be sprinkled all along Beach & Shore Boulevards.
Once you start feeling high-society enough, channel your inner Jay Gatsby or Daisy Buchanan at the “Roaring Geckos” Gecko Ball. The party starts at 6:00 p.m., on Saturday, Aug. 23, and goes until 11:00 p.m.
Tickets are $35 and available at the Gulfport Beach Bazaar’s Box Office. Cocktail specials, a cash bar, a costume contest, hors d’oeuvres, a dinner buffet, a commemorative photo booth, the Z Street Speakeasy Band, dozens of silent auction items, and the popular live auction of geckos created by local artists, will add to the extravagance of the night. Don’t hesitate to discuss any array of hot social issues either, such as the Irish Civil War (1922 – 1923), Jack Dempsey’s mean left hook
, Marx’s brand of communism, Mussolini’s fascist March on Rome, André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto
(1924), Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. DuBois and the Harlem Renaissance, or even America’s immigration act of 1924.
Then, finally, close it out like Black Tuesday’s just around the corner and you’re about to lose it all. Why not party in the face of certain demise? It’s always so liberating. Pretend you can smell the dust and feel the tumbleweeds that carry with them the Great Depression and then laugh like all those who actually lived it that never could. It’s your one last chance to take that make-believe stab at attaining the elusive American dream. So throw it all out there at this year’s Geckofest conclusion. It’s going to be one big, huge, fun-for-all-ages party-parade that lasts all day, from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., on Saturday, Aug. 30.
There will be a costume contest, parade, fire and acrobatics show, and one emotionally-organic street dance to cap off this year’s Geckofest. But even the most colorful description can’t do the event justice. You just have to strap on your two-tone wing-tips, and get ready for one last Charleston, because this whole month is going to be the bee’s knees out in Gulfport.