Manatees Big Celebrities at
Apollo Beach Festival of the Arts

(l-r) SMC Volunteers Jeff Niblock and Susan Aungst.

By Susan Aungst,
Save the Manatee Club Volunteer

Manatees prevail as the “Stars of the Show” at the Apollo Beach Festival of the Arts in Apollo Beach, Florida. This beautiful canal community sits on the southern border of the Tampa Bay, Hillsborough Bay waterway leading out to the Gulf of Mexico. Its residents share a special relationship with the gentle giants who frequent the warm waters during the winter months at the nearby Big Bend TECO power plant. For the past thirteen years, the Apollo Beach Chamber of Commerce has sponsored this popular event as a way to promote the awareness and preservation of the manatee, as well as the visual and performing arts.

Visitors each year enjoy the 100 juried artists during the two-day event held the second weekend in March. Save the Manatee Club’s information table is one of the most visited at the show. The Club’s volunteers answer questions, hand out educational brochures and fact sheets, and explain how people can adopt-a-manatee through the Club’s three adoption programs. Visitors can also sign up for the E-mail Action Alert Team and receive notices of issues that are important for manatee protection and the actions that can be taken to help. As more people learn about the manatees and come to care about what happens to them, there’s a better chance that these delightful animals will get the adequate protections they need for survival.

Beautiful weather, live entertainment, seafood, BBQ, and superior artisans are enjoyed by about 10,000 visitors each year at the festival. A portion of the proceeds go to benefit various organizations including Save the Manatee Club, who use the funds for continued research and education. The Apollo Beach Chamber of Commerce also sets up a free shuttle service to the Manatee Viewing Center at the Big Bend TECO power plant about a mile from the festival site on US 41. The viewing center is free to the public and is open from November 1 - April 15th (10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.). It’s especially active and fun for all when manatees make their appearance in the winter months.

Manatees enjoy the warm winter waters at the Big Bend TECO power plant. TECO sponsors the manatee viewing center, which is free to the public. (Photo by Susan Aungst.)

Get more information about the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center

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