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Gulfport to mark 100 years with arts, winks

The first Gulfport Casino, built in 1906, served as a way station for passengers waiting to take ferries to the beaches.

Courtesy of the Gulfport Historical Society

The first Gulfport Casino, built in 1906, served as a way station for passengers waiting to take ferries to the beaches.

GULFPORT — One hundred years ago, the city of Gulfport was born.

On Tuesday, a descendent of one of its first elected officials, will transport anyone who's interested back to the day of its birth.

As part of the city's centennial celebration, a re-enactment of the day Gulfport was incorporated will be at 7 p.m. at the Casino Ballroom, 5500 Shore Blvd. S. The event is free and open to the public.

Bob Worthington, great-grandson of one of the city's first elected council members, Henry Slauter, organized the re-enactment. Worthington himself recently stepped down as a City Council member.

"There isn't a lot of documentation from the time, so we are just going to make it comical," Worthington said. "It's going to be a fun event."

Gulfport was part of pre-Pinellas Hillsborough County before some of its wealthy citizens moved to incorporate.

"They wanted tax money to build roads and other amenities," Worthington said.

Gulfport was attractive because it had a long pier that could be used to ferry people over to the beaches. There were no bridges back then.

Even though women weren't part of the process because they had not yet been given the right to vote, modern-day Gulfport would never think of leaving women out of the festivities.

"There were two issues that were important to women back then," Worthington said, "winning the right to vote and banning alcohol sales and saloons."

So, the re-enactment will have sign-toting women in period dress as a backdrop for the official business the men were doing.

The original boundaries of Gulfport were Central Avenue to Boca Ciega Bay on the north and south, and Tampa Bay to Boca Ciega Bay, east to west, an area of almost 8 square miles, Worthington said. It had to be that big to get the 20 residents it needed to incorporate.

Worthington's family had homesteaded a large part of that area, where it grew oranges.

On Oct. 12, 1910, as 30 of the town's 38 registered voters gathered, the question of incorporation was on their ballots. It passed, 23-7.

Gulfport was born.

Then, its first mayor, Elmer Wintersgill, and its first council, clerk and marshal were elected.

"The biggest uproar is that Gulfport was one of the largest geographical areas in the United States with the smallest population," Worthington said.

The re-enactment leads up to the city's big bash, its Centennial Celebration, from 11 a.m. to dusk Saturday at and around the Casino.

If you go

Gulfport Centennial Celebration

Incorporation re-enactment: 7 p.m. Tuesday, at the Casino Ballroom, 5500 Shore Blvd. S

Gulfport Centennial Art Celebration: 1-9 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Casino Ballroom. Showcase of 100 works by Gulfport artists. Ribbons will be awarded.

Other events Saturday

11 a.m.-4 p.m.: auto show

Noon-8 p.m.: arts and craft vendors

1:15 p.m.: water-skiing exhibition

4 p.m.: Taste of Gulfport and Lions Club Shrimp Boil

Dusk: fireworks

Gulfport to mark 100 years with arts, winks 10/09/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 12:31pm]
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