Shopping preview before Gecko Fest on Saturday in Gulfport

On Saturday, Gulfport celebrates its 10th annual Gecko Fest, a whimsical street festival that drew more than 15,000 folks last year. That's a lot of love for a little lizard that probably doesn't even live in the 100-year-old fishing village. (You do know those are mostly green and brown anoles flitting along the sidewalks, not geckos, right?) Why is Gulfport so gaga for geckos? We're not sure anybody really knows — or cares. Somehow they've become a symbol of the funky playfulness that is the heart of this charming town lined with Old Florida wood bungalows. So let's focus on what really matters: Does gecko-mania translate into fabulous shopping? We went on a gecko hunt among the quirky shops on Beach Boulevard to find out. Here's just a fraction of what you'll see, because stores and vendors will load up for the festival. "I'll be gecko ready," said Catherine Weaver, owner of Uniquely Original Art Gallery, where geckos were scarce, but you couldn't miss the life-sized zebra in the window.

Kelly Smith and Anne Glover, Times staff writers

Domain Home Accessories (3129 Beach Blvd. S; (727) 302-9299): The tiny store specializes in functional art for the home, the shelves dripping with lamps, mirrors, cards, jewelry and barware by local and national artists. Lots of geckos, including colorful ceramics and fused glass, plus wood block paintings.

Bo-Tiki (3015 Beach Blvd. S; (727) 498-8757): Go beach chic with eclectic women's fashions, handbags, accessories and art decor, much of it by local artists. Our favorites are blinged-out gecko jewelry, hand-beaded geckos and a painted fellow scaling the wall.

The Outpost (3007 Beach Blvd. S; (727) 343-5962): A collection of local artwork and vintage items. An unusual skirt,pictured here, wins our award for the best use of past Gecko Fest souvenir T-shirts ever.

Reef Dog Gifts and Grooming (2820 Beach Blvd. S; (727) 323-7007): Geckos are so cool that even the dogs are wearing them on bandanas. The dog shop also sells a bright green gecko chew toy for $6.99.

What else?

There are two new spots to check out in Gulfport.

Tangelo's Grille (3121 Beach Blvd. S; (727) 894-1695; tangelosgrille.com): The longtime favorite of downtown St. Petersburg moved to Gulfport with Cuban sandwiches, festive neon tortilla chips with green salsa, and a beer selection that includes Sea Dog Blueberry Wheat and Liquid Sunshine in bottles.

Dive Bar & Grill (3128 Beach Blvd. S; divebarandgrill.com): The grand opening for the gay bar is this weekend. Its website touts $4 frozen drinks, free draft beer on the rooftop deck from 5 to 6 p.m., and a hottest body in the bay contest.

. if you go

Gecko Fest

The family- and dog-friendly festival celebrates Labor Day from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday along Beach Boulevard in Gulfport. There will be street performers, vendors, sidewalk chalk art, face painting and live music. Dress up in your reptilian finest — pets, too — for the walking parade at 6 p.m. Prizes will be awarded.

Zhu-universe will sponsor a children's area, including inflatable habitat trails, a human hamster wheel, a six-set obstacle course, video games and giveaways. The festival ends with the famous street dance at 8 p.m.

Insider tip: Look for the guy with the white dragons. What are they, you ask? No idea, but that's what the organizers told us is one of the unique presentations this year.

Shopping preview before Gecko Fest on Saturday in Gulfport 09/01/10 [Last modified: Monday, September 6, 2010 6:45pm]

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