Volunteers Spread the Word at 2020 Manatee Festivals

Always a crowd favorite, “Hope” the inflatable manatee makes an appearance at the Crystal River Manatee Festival.
Always a crowd favorite, “Hope” the inflatable manatee makes an appearance at the Crystal River Manatee Festival.

By Ally Greco, Communications and Outreach Manager

For many, January is a time to reset after the busy holiday season and make goals for the new year. For Save the Manatee Club (SMC) volunteers, however, January is just as busy, with two major manatee festivals that need their help. This year, volunteers attended the Florida Manatee Festival in Crystal River, FL, on January 18 and 19, as well as the Blue Spring Manatee Festival in Orange City, FL, on January 25 and 26.

Save the Manatee Club Volunteers (l-r) Mary Bourassa, Trinket Mason, Hailey Thomas, Karen Ann Bunce, and Ben Linville welcomed visitors to the Florida Manatee Festival in Crystal River on January 18th and 19th. Together, they collected donations, processed manatee adoptions, and handed out educational material about manatees.

As manatees from across the state travel to warm-water sanctuaries like Crystal River and Blue Springs in the winter, visitors from across the country also make their way to the manatee festivals. Both events have two locations: a central festival area and a park with manatee-viewing opportunities. Save the Manatee Club has a presence at each location in order to educate visitors about manatees and fundraise for manatee conservation efforts.

Volunteers handled large crowds at the Florida Manatee Festival in Crystal River throughout the weekend. Downtown, “Hope,” the giant inflatable manatee, welcomed visitors to the Save the Manatee Club tent, where they could enter a drawing to win SMC goodies. At the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge location, visitors could see real manatee bones and request free education materials, like dock signs and boat decals.

Save the Manatee Club volunteers (l-r) Bev Oswald and Deb Brown talk to visitors at the Blue Spring Manatee Festival, alongside “Jessie” the plush manatee, the grand prize for SMC’s drawing.

Window shoppers visited the Save the Manatee Club tent at the Blue Spring Manatee Festival on Saturday, January 25. Volunteers collected donations for tote bags, 2020 calendars, and t-shirts. Manatee fans of all ages could be spotted wearing Save the Manatee Club t-shirts throughout the festival. Down the street at Blue Spring State Park, over 300 manatees gathered in the spring run on Sunday, January 26, which made it easy for volunteers to share the benefits of our Adopt-A-Manatee program.

While talking to people about manatees is fun, volunteering at these events comes with a fair share of hard work. SMC Volunteers Karen Ann Bunce and Trinket Mason attended both days of both festivals, helping to transport, set up, and break down tents, tables, and displays. “It is a true labor of love,” explains Trinket. “Working at festivals is my way of expressing appreciation for how lucky I am to be able to educate people on how to help protect these wonderful gentle giants and their habitat.”

Everyone was relieved to see sunny skies during all four festival days. “I admit I sometimes may not be happy with the weather,” said Karen Ann, who volunteers at many SMC events throughout the year. “But a day learning and sharing information about manatees is a day well spent.”

Save the Manatee Club thanks all the volunteers who helped educate and fundraise at these signature events. If you are interested in joining the volunteer team, please fill out our online volunteer application.

Thank You To Our Volunteers!

Crystal River Manatee Festival: Trinket Mason, Karen Ann Bunce, Mary Bourassa, Hailey Thomas, Stephanie D’Amico, Steven D’Amico, Ben Linville, Cary Evans, Ellen Elting, Bob Fowler, and Denise Anderson.

Blue Spring Manatee Festival: Deb Brown, Doug Brown, Laura Frenchik, Hailey Thomas, Andrea Swinehart, Karen Ann Bunce, Trinket Mason, Mahesh Narra, Patricia Price, Audrey DeLong, Bev Oswald, and Dee Laliberte.

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