Harrison County

Sloth, penguin makes waves at Splash Bash as Gulfport aquarium opening date announced

About 2,000 people filled The Barksdale Pavillion for the second annual Splash Bash to support the Mississippi Aquarium.

The biggest announcement of the night? The aquarium is set to open on April 30, 2020.

“We are so excited the community gets together and has a party and knows they are supporting the Mississippi Aquarium,” said David J. Kimmel, aquarium president and CEO.

The crowd also enjoyed mingling with animals, including Fiona the sloth, Yang the otter, an alligator and a penguin.

The pavilion was decorated as an underwater paradise with larger-than-life decorations. Guests were greeted with a large shell for photos at the entrance, a spinning dolphin chandelier, floating jellyfish and a giant octopus overlooking the party.

Dancing purple, blue and green lights lit up the pavilion and dance floor as China Town rocked the stage in front of an illuminated, computer-generated fish tank.

“We’re having a great time,” guest Michael Demoran said. “ The bars, the band it’s really a great party.”

Ali and Pat Fore, a daughter and father from Gulfport, also attended Splash Bash and are excited to see their hometown continue to grow.

“This is great for Gulfport, the aquarium Is going to bring in a ton of people,” Ali Fore said. “It’ll be great for the community and for Mississippi. It’s going to be a beautiful place, and looking around you can tell there’s a lot of support behind it”

Food vendors from across the Coast offered a large selection of food, including seafood, pizza, sushi and popsicles.

Kimmel was excited by the turnout for the event that’s hosted by Hancock Whitney Bank.

“Mississippi knows this is their aquarium,” Kimmel said. “That’s the best compliment that there is.”

Alyssa Newton is an award-winning multimedia journalist with a background in television, radio and print. She’s originally from Dothan, Alabama and has a journalism degree from the University of South Alabama in Mobile. Her passion lies in storytelling, news, sports and a strong espresso.