Suzanne King volunteered to help organize a local festival years ago and now finds herself doing it as a full-time gig as SIK Promotions, Inc.
Event organization is something many think they can do and want to take part in but when it comes time for everyone to be where they're supposed to be on the big day it takes an experienced organizer to make it happen. She has made it happen for more than a decade and works from home, riding a constant wave of emails and phone calls each week in preparation for the next event.
She began by helping set up a festival in John's Pass Village and gradually moved on to organizing festivals while maintaining a full-time job in the restaurant industry. Through word-of-mouth she eventually started getting calls from more distant areas in Florida and last September became too busy to work the full-time job anymore and began organizing festivals full-time.
“I was doing the two festivals in John's Pass and I got started in Gulfport because I volunteered to dress up like a pirate,” she remembers of one of the Geckofests. “They continued to invite me to their planning meetings and eventually hired me to do Art Walk and I'm doing most of the festivals in Gulfport now.”
She currently is planning several festivals throughout Florida including Geckofest, two pirate fests and a blues festival. Events she organizes throughout the year include Gulfport's Get Rescued, John Levique Pirate Days, Sunset Celebration on Corey, Gulfport SpringFest, Gulfport Holiday Hoopla and many others.
Originally from Maine, King came to Gulfport on a whim.
“A friend and I came down to work at one of the [upscale] clubs for the winter. We didn't like it there so we bought a station wagon for $190 and went driving all around Florida,” she remembers. “Eventually we ended up in St. Pete and and had $200 between us and found an apartment for $200.”
The next day she walked into the Friendly Fisherman restaurant, got a job and worked there for the next 23 years. She bought a home in Gulfport 12 years ago and has been here ever since.
All the festivals are fundraisers and most are for nonprofit organizations including the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce and Gulfport Merchant's Association among others. With years worth of contacts for vendors, artists, crafters, retail, web design and the rest, she is a valuable resource in putting an event together. Once a plan is hatched she utilizes her media list for promotion and then it's on to more planning and organizing until the day of the event.
“It is a lot of work. I work all day every day,” she explains, describing the planning as a year of work for one day of glory. “But then when you put the festivals on and the people come and they're having fun, that's what it's all about.”
She prefers not to spend too much time in meetings planning the event, choosing instead to work on her own in getting the community to pull together. Just let her do her thing and everything will be okay.
The John's Pass Seafood Festival, Geckofest and Treasure Coast Pirate Fest are three of her largest attended events, drawing as many as 30,000 attendees but the pirate festivals draw people from all over the country with somewhat of a cult following. She adds to the mystique with her own custom-made pirate-themed golf cart created by local artists Marcella Ruso and Fishbone, which has become her trademark and a much needed tool in getting from one place to another during the days of the events.
King has paid her dues with the years of planning and developing connections to organize events and after much consideration she finally shed the day job to make a go of it as a business.
“I enjoy working for myself. You spend your whole life working for somebody else and I was nervous when I stopped working full-time,” she says. “As soon as people found out I was doing this full-time the phone calls just started coming in. It's worked out well.”
She can be contacted through her web site or via her Facebook page.