Gulfport gets its ‘weird’ on for Springfest
This year’s Springfest garden art festival may have captured the spirit of this waterfront town a bit better than past renditions of the event.
Vendors selling herbs potted in seashells, artists blowing glass and shaping clay jars, and winged faeries dancing around a palm tree maypole, wrapping it in multicolored ribbons to celebrate the spring season.
“Gulfport believes in magic. We’re a magical community,” said longtime resident Greg Stemm, who donned a bright purple coat, translucent orange wings and carried a long staff festooned with blue-green ribbons at today’s festival.
Lori Rosso has another way to explain the transformation of this 19-year-old festival from a sidewalk garden festival on Beach Boulevard downtown into this year’s cross between renaissance fair, art show and Earth Day celebration in sprawling Clymer Park.
“Weird works here,” said Rosso, of the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce, pointing to nearby T-shirts for sale with the logo “Keep Gulfport Weird.”
At Saturday’s festival, there were elves on stilts cracking wise with families walking by, an outdoor drama about star-crossed faerie lovers, an open-air glass-blowing/blacksmithing shop and singing minstrels serenading festivalgoers.
In one tent, tarot cards and palm-readings were offered; in another, a vendor sold “Pixie Portals,” tiny, hand-painted doors he said opened into the fairy world – incidentally, these were not made specifically for Saturday’s festival.
The purpose of the new theme was to give Springfest a more distinct identity, its producer Suzie King said.
Why the faerie theme?
“Faeries are of the earth and they’re natural elements and spring always is that celebration of what’s natural,” said Ciara Carinci, the festival’s creative director.
Dozens of faeries, trolls and elf warriors, many of them local entertainers who work big events such as the Bay Area Renaissance Festival in Tampa, volunteered their time to get this new magical Springfest off the ground.
Alvarie, leader of the Black Forest war elves – also known as Libby Higdon of Gulfport – said the new festival captures everything that’s special about the small city.
Many residents hope to see it grow into a two-day event next year.
“This is the perfect pairing for Gulfport, with the gardens and the faeries and this time of year. It is perfect,” she said.