Reward offered for four missing GeckoFest geckos

BRADENTON — A reward is being offered by GeckoFest organizers for information leading to the recovery of four stolen gecko art pieces.

Diane Shelley, who has been helping with the festival, believes the geckos were stolen mid-last week from an undisclosed downtown storage area.

“I did an inventory check Monday or Tuesday,” she said. “Then by Friday, it was obvious that the Geico gecko wasn’t there.”

Three others were missing, too. They include the Geico gecko, a gecko that has piano keys on its back, another with claws and one that is black and white. The geckos, which are 6 feet in length, are valued at $1,500 each.

The reward for the return of the geckos is $100 each, said Jane Coker, member of the Geckofest committee.

Shelley said during that week, artists were in and out of the storage site to freshen up their geckos before Friday’s preview party at Rossi Park.

“It’s just a situation where someone wasn’t suppose to be there,” Shelley said. “To be honest, I think that somebody took them because they are quite desirable.”

She said security measures have been tightened at the storage site since the incident.

A report was filed with the Bradenton Police Department on Monday, citing the incident as a burglary with no forced entry, occurring sometime between 7 and 10:30 p.m. April 14-April 16, said Capt. Joseph Vorva.

“We have no evidence, witnesses or suspects,” he said. “There’s no leads or suspects at the time.”

The GeckoFest staff spent the weekend searching for them, said Janye Kocher, chairperson of the festival.

“It’s disheartening when you try to do something good, and then this happens,” she said.

She said she has no idea who would take them.

“I guess maybe I just keep hoping they’d show,” she said. “That maybe it’s just a prank.”

Sixty-one geckos were created for GeckoFest and were hung on buildings throughout downtown Bradenton for the past four months. They were taken down in early April to be auctioned off during a gala May 1.

If the geckos aren’t found, that means $6,000 of lost revenue for a festival that benefitted the arts.

“It takes away from the net proceeds that goes to schools and arts organizations,” Shelley said.

Anyone with information on the missing geckos, may call the Bradenton Police Department at (941) 932-9300.

January Holmes, Herald features writer, can be reached at 745-7057.

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