At ABC Action News, we know it's the combination of all the communities that make Tampa Bay great to live in. That's why we've started a new series of reporting highlighting good things happening around town, discovering cool gems you may not know about, and uncovering the big news events impacting those areas.
On Friday, the Good Morning Tampa Bay team focused on Gulfport.
- Gulfport once had a four-leaf clover farm that sent clovers across the globe.
- First EuroAmerican residents came to Gulfport from Key West, where they worked as blockade runners during the Civil War.
- Mullet fishermen made an excellent living in Gulfport before the commercial net ban. These hard-working men would often boast of 10,000 pounds of mullet a day. Gulfport would export mullet roe to China as a delicacy.
- Although Gulfport's known for its robust restaurants and vibrant creatives, many commercial fishermen and boat captains still call the city home, too
- Gulfport pioneered the oldest Art Walk in Tampa Bay, in the late 90s.
- The Chamber of Commerce adopted the First Friday Art Walk and has continued the tradition every First Friday of the month – with a small pandemic-related exception – for more than 20 years.
- The Casino never had gambling in it, and it's the third such casino to sit in its prime location overlooking Boca Ciega Bay.
- Before developers dredged the southern end of Beach Boulevard, the Casino stood over the water.
- High tide reached to the Historic Peninsula Inn
- The Southern cuisine restaurant inside the Inn, Isabelle's, carries the name of the Inn's friendly ghost. Skeptics and believers alike will tell you about feeling her presence at different times
- Gulfport is home to the oldest independently owned hyperlocal newspaper in Florida. Now on its fourth set of owners since it began printing in 1968, the Gabber publishes a print paper every Thursday (and daily online), and the owners live in the city.
- Before drawbridges made it possible to drive to the beach, people would either drive or take a trolley to Gulfport
- The trolley, which traveled from downtown St. Petersburg, would deposit riders at the side of the Casino, where they could board a boat to cruise over to Pass-a-Grille or Long Key, now called St. Pete Beach.
A large portion of Gulfport is the 50+ community.
The pandemic really hit that age group hard, especially when it comes to social isolation.
The Gulfport Senior Center has really been trying to engage that group since COVID-19 began.
In the beginning, that meant teaching people how to use Facebook, Youtube and Zoom. But now, it's smooth sailing.
For boaters, kayakers and visitors, the Gulfport Marina is a slice of paradise.
"Yes, no pun intended, but it was a shot in the arm for the marine industry," explains Denis Frain, Gulfport Marina Director.
The Gulfport Marina, like many other outdoor places, found success during COVID-19. Business has been booming and full of people wanting to get outside and get away from it all.
Walk up and down Beach Drive, you'll see that Gulfport thrives off local businesses and artists.
"This town is all about their small businesses. And so when that was taken away from us, it really, really was a whole different level of impact to our community and to the businesses here. And so once we started bringing those back in September, it just gave everybody a little bit more hope that you know, we were going to make it through this time," Barbara Banno, president of the Gulfport Merchants Association said.
Gulfport's Tuesday markets have always been busy.
"So, it's just sort of become the heart of Gulfport, you know, one of our big our weekly events that we have, and it just kind of the heartbeat of our town," explains Victoria Ann Wenners, cook chef at the Gulfperk Coffee Shop.
Project-Free, the gem of Gulfport.
"Disabilities are really….not disabling!" explains Sharon Vanderline.
Vanderline quit her day job to start this non-profit, all for her daughter Lauren.
"She would go to different auditions, but the kid with Down syndrome would never be allowed to be with the regular band, they just would not allow her," says Vanderline.
Families in Gulfport are now able to enjoy upgraded, free beach parking after city leaders made improvements to Shore Boulevard.
Shore Boulevard, with its small shops and waterfront access, has always been picturesque.
"The water is beautiful," said one lifelong resident. "All the little kids out go out there."
But now, Gulfport city leaders have made it easier for both visitors and residents to navigate. Not only did they widen Shore Boulevard, making room for additional parking spots, but they added newer, wider sidewalks.
This week artists from across the Tampa Bay area came out of their studios and into the light. It’s all part of Gulfport’s inaugural Plein Air Art Walk. Plein means open-air in French.
Frank Williams isn’t used to people watching his every dip of the paintbrush, but that’s the whole idea behind the Plein Air Art Walk. He’s one of several artists to set up his brushes and canvass to the sidewalks of Beach Blvd.
“Putting yourself out there, you are going to be exposing yourself, you are going to be exposing your talents, and I think that's a good growth opportunity,” said Williams.