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TOP 10 EVENTS NOT TO MISS IN TAMPA BAY

TOP 10 EVENTS NOT TO MISS IN TAMPA BAY

By Deborah Bostock-Kelley

September 4 - GeckoFest – Gulfport, FL

For funky, fun, artsy, and weird, while Washington has Seattle, Florida has Gulfport.

Many years ago, a group of friends attempted to come up with a fun name for a new free festival in Gulfport, FL. While they were brainstorming, a gecko walked across their path, and inspiration struck. GeckoFest was born.

Suzanne King, event director, said, "The name GeckoFest makes people take a second look to find out what exactly this festival is. Is it a festival celebrating lizards? What exactly is it?'

Now in its 20th year, on September 4 from 10 AM to 10 PM, four city blocks, each with a large stage on two corners, will feature live music entertainment, unique food vendors for hot summer days, local artisans and crafters, and local street performers like magicians and fire-eaters in the very family-friendly, pet-friendly festival. A fundraiser for Gulfcoast Merchant Chamber, each year's event has a theme.

"This year's theme is American Bandstand – 1952-1989. We see a lot of creative costumes. People love dressing up for the festival."

The 12-hour celebration will end with a bang as the city is sponsoring fireworks at sundown.

Event: GeckoFest

Cost: Free

Date: Saturday, September 4, 2021 – 10 AM to 10 PM

Location: 3101 Beach Boulevard S., Gulfport, FL 33707

Learn more at visitgulfportflorida.com or call 727.417.5494

September 4 – Fifth Annual Countdown Improv Festival – Tampa, FL

In its fifth year, the Countdown Improv Festival brings trio, duo, and solo improv acts from throughout the United States to Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City. Over a period of four nights, 57 featured groups will delight audiences with their improvisation comedy in the world’s only improv festival exclusively devoted to this type of trio, duo, and solo improv comedy.

Event: Fifth Annual Countdown Improv Festival

Cost: Weekend Pass $60

Date: Wednesday, September 8 - Saturday, September 11, 2021 – 7:30 PM to 11 PM

Location: HCC Ybor Performing Arts Building, 2112 N 15th St, Tampa, FL 33605

Learn more at countdownimprovfestival.com.

September 5 – 10th Annual Ford International Cuban Sandwich Food and Art Festival– Tampa, FL

Enjoy live music, dance, and Cuban sandwiches from around the globe at the 10th annual festival. Contestants from all over the world enter their Cuban sandwich to see who will be named 'the best Cuban sandwich in the world.' Attendees can watch the attempt to make the largest Cuban sandwich in the world. The goal this year is 225 ft. and will be donated to a homeless shelter. Social distancing is encouraged.

Event: 10th Annual Ford International Cuban Sandwich Food and Art Festival

Cost: Free with registration

Date: Sunday, September 5, 2021 – 11AM - 2PM, 2 - 4PM, or 4PM to 6 PM

Location: Centro Asturiano de Tampa, 1913 N Nebraska Ave, Tampa, FL 33602

Learn more at cubansandwichfestival.com

(Photo: Ford International Cuban Sandwich Food and Art Festival)

September 9 – Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Virtual Film Festival (TIGLFF) Launch Party – Tampa, FL

One of the largest and longest-running LGBTQ+ film festivals in the country, TIGLFF offers a selection of compelling films created about, for and by, the LGBTQ+ community. To celebrate its 32nd year, a launch party will be held outside of Straz Center, with light bites, drinks, a cash bar, and trailers, and a program of films debuting in the October Festival.

Event: Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Virtual Film Festival (TIGLFF) Launch Party

Cost: $50 - $55

Date: Thursday, September 9, 2021 – 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM

Location: Straz Center, 1010 North Macinnes Place, Tampa, FL 33602

Learn more at tiglff.com

September 10 – October 31 – Howl-O-Scream – Tampa, FL

If you are eager to start enjoying jump scares and things that go bump in the night, Howl-O-Scream debuts in September with eight scare zones, roaming hoards, new and returning horrific haunted houses filled with zombies, deranged clowns, werewolves, vampires, and more. For an extra thrill, experience the rides at night. 

Event: Howl-O-Scream

Cost: $31.99 through August 8, $99 after

Date: Fridays and Saturdays – 7 PM – 1 AM, Thursdays and Sundays – 7 PM – 12 PM

Location: Busch Gardens, 10165 N McKinley Dr., Tampa, FL 33612

Learn more at buschgardens.com/tampa/events/howl-o-scream/

(Photo: Busch Gardens)

September 11 – Tampa Bay Women's Expo – Tampa, FL

Produced by the Tampa Bay Times, The Tampa Bay Women's Expo showcases the latest and greatest products and services for women in the areas of nutrition, fitness, health, and beauty. The special event features entertainment, speakers, and an estimated 200 vendors. There will also be an educational component with a day-long seminar series. Many exhibitors will offer screenings, product sampling, and demos, and the first 500 guests receive a complimentary bag.

Event: Tampa Bay Women's Expo

Cost: Free

Date: Saturday, September 11, 2021 – 10 AM to 4 PM

Location: Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 US Hwy 301, Tampa, FL 33610

Learn more at tampabay.com/expos/womens-expo/

September 11 – 14th Annual Crack Up Cancer Comedy Benefit – Tampa, FL

On September 11, 14th Annual Crack Up Cancer Comedy Benefit will fundraise for The Florida Cancer Specialists (FCS) Foundation. The 501(3)(c) nonprofit organization provides financial support to qualified adult cancer patients in Florida for expenses such as rent or mortgage, car payments, and utility bills.

The annual showcase features the comedy antics of Steve Byrne, Steve Simeone, Derek Richards, Catherine Maloney, and Johnny B.

Event: 14th Annual Crack Up Cancer Comedy Benefit

Cost: $20 - $50

Date: Saturday, September 11, 2021 – Doors open at 6 PM; Show starts at 8 PM

Location: Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center, 1010 North Macinnes Place, Tampa, FL 33602 

Learn more at strazcenter.org/Events/Straz/Shows/2021-Rentals/Crack-Up-Cancer-Comedy-Show

September 11-12 – I Like It Hot! Festival – Largo, FL

If your spice preference is hot or I-can't-feel-my-face, you'll fit right in at the 21st annual, I Like It Hot! Festival. Hosted by SIK Promotions and Intensity Academy Gourmet & Hot Sauce Company, the free pet-and kid-friendly festival features live music, hot product vendors, food trucks, and competitions for amateurs in hot sauce, salsa, BBQ sauce, hot pepper-eating, and a hula hoop contest. 

Michelle Northrup, co-founder, and owner of Intensity Academy Gourmet & Hot Sauce Company, said, "This is the largest spicy food show in Florida! We are excited to be back in Largo for our 21st annual event! There will be bands, beer, BBQ, sauces, Salsas, spicy foods, marinades, rubs, pepper plants, contests, whip-cracking demos/show, ax throwing, and other Entertainment! Enjoy our family-friendly fun!"

Vendor competitions include favorite vendor and hot concoctions that attendees will vote on their favorite. A more unusual challenge is Spicy-Lolly-Lick-O-Thon, where competitors hold the world's hottest lollipop in their mouths without biting it until it dissolves. 

Event: I Like It Hot! Festival

Cost: FREE

Date: Saturday, September 11, 2021 – 10 AM to 5 PM, Sunday, September 12, 11 AM – 4 PM

Location: Largo Event Center, 6340 126th Ave No. Largo, FL 33773

Learn more at ilikeithotfestival.com.

September 25 – 2nd Annual Tampa Bay Black Authors Expo – Tampa, FL

Founded in 2019, after a pandemic delay, the second annual Tampa Bay Black Authors Expo is returning to Tampa. On September 25, this event showcases local vendors, a workshop, "How to be a Self-Employed Writer," a black sci-fi panel discussion, poetry entertainment from local poets, and local black authors given the opportunity to share their books.

Founder Tonisha Kimbly said, "It's an opportunity for local black authors to get together, network, and get their story out in their community. It helps them see that they aren't the only one out there who is an independent author or writer. There's tons of wonderful talent here in the Bay area."

Event: Tampa Bay Black Authors Expo

Cost: FREE

Date: Saturday, September 25, 2021 – 10 AM to 4 PM

Location: 6213 E Hillsborough Ave, Tampa, FL 33610

Learn more at tbbae.com

September 29 – Creature Feature Film Competition at Necronomicon Convention – Tampa, FL

If you love monster movies like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, don't miss the 5th annual Creature Feature Film Competition at Necronomicon, a yearly convention of science-fiction, fantasy and horror fans. 

Monique Guggino, festival director and amateur filmmaker, had been attending this convention since her teens and was excited to create an event to partner her passion for filmmaking with a convention that she loved.

Filmmakers from all over, of all ages and skill levels, will bring their cinematic creatures to life and debut their short original monster movies in the competition. Award categories range from best film and best creature to best FX and best death.

"We give them the genre and creature category. Like the genre innocently evil can be a doll, and the category is action. In two weeks, they have to create a short film under eight minutes, whether it's using a professional camera or on a cell phone," said Monique. "This is their chance to make a monster film, and all profits go to charity."

Event: Creature Feature Film Competition

Cost: $15

Date: Saturday, September 29, 2021 – 7 PM to ?

Location: Embassy Suites by Hilton Tampa USF, 3705 Spectrum Blvd., Tampa, FL 33612

Learn more at filmfreeway.com/CreatureFeatureCompetition or Facebook.com/WickedWindow.

(Photo: Creature Feature Film Competition)

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