The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 1 - October 30, 2013

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Enjoy the Sarasota Bay Water Festival

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Captain Andy Cotton | submitted

A healthy bay supports great fishing which in turn supports
the economy. Captain Rick Grassett’s tripletail took his
Grassett Flats Bunny fly in the waters of Sarasota Bay.

Geographically Sarasota Bay is the defining landmark of Sarasota and Manatee counties. A sparkling, natural treasure, it is not only a unique ecological habitat but an economic engine that contributes to the financial health of the region. The non-profit organization Sarasota Bay Watch has a slogan, “A Healthy Bay is Everybody’s Business,” recognizing the importance of Sarasota Bay to everyone who resides close to the bay. On Saturday, Nov. 2 at Ken Thompson Park, residents and tourists alike can take part in a celebration of the bay at the Sarasota Bay Water Festival. The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) is the presenting sponsor and HDR, Inc. the host sponsor for this year’s event. The Water Festival is being supported by more than 80 exhibitors, 44 sponsors and volunteers from throughout Sarasota and Manatee County. Triple 3 Marketing (T3M) is managing the event.

The festival celebrates the importance of Sarasota Bay to the region’s environment, economy and quality of life. Highlights include fine artists and photographers selling unique gifts, free live music with performers including Ben Hammond, Come Back Alice, Democracy, Hymn for Her, and Luke Andrews. There will be food trucks, a beer and wine garden, dragon boat races, vintage boat displays and panel discussions on bay-friendly living. In addition there will be a Sarasota Bay Photo Contest, dip netting and nature walks for kids. Rounding out the festivities are tent exhibits promoting boating, fishing, kayaking, paddleboard sports, scuba diving, and more. The festival will have an interactive Community Art Mural; visitors will help paint the mural with support from an art teacher and students from Bayshore High School in Bradenton.

The vision of the Water Festival is to celebrate Sarasota Bay as the region's most important economic driver. The Festival is also running a marketing campaign with Tampa Bay Times to make the festival a destination event for other residents of Florida. The panel discussions focus on the protection of local wildlife, the problem of stormwater pollution, environmental education, and the challenges facing Sarasota Bay.

The panel discussions will kick off at noon with Protecting Sarasota Bay Wildlife - panelists include Jeanne Dubi with Sarasota Audubon, Krystan Wilkinson with Mote Marine Laboratory, Buddy Powell with Sea to Shore Alliance, Suzi Fox with AMI Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, and Jay Leverone with SBEP. At 1 p.m. the focus will be on reducing stormwater pollution with Michelle Atkinson from Manatee County Extension, Tom Heitzman with Florida Native Plant Society, Alison Albee of the City of Sarasota, and Ray Kaiser with the Anna Maria Island Eco-Village. At 2 p.m. the discussion will shift to environmental education and stewardship. Panelists include Karen Fraley with Around the Bend Nature Tours, Melissa Nell from Manatee County, Rob Wright with Sarasota County, Jennifer Shafer with the Science and Environmental Council of Southwest Florida, and Sara Kane with SBEP. The program will conclude with Sarasota Bay Past, Present and Future. Panelists include Damon Moore with Manatee County, Bill Burger (local archaeologist), Captain Kathe with Cortez Fishing Village, and Sherri Swanson with HDR, Inc.

Vintage Paws Sanctuary has been selected as the nonprofit partner for 2013. The proceeds from the sale of beer and wine at the event will support the mission of Vintage Paws to provide care for displaced senior dogs. The Water Festival is pet-friendly, but dog owners must bring a six-foot leash and doggie bags. The outdoor expo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the live music runs from noon until 7 .p.m. Raffle prizes include a 12-foot Perception Sport Kayak from Economy Tackle and Dolphin Paddlesports, a Hovie Scout Paddleboard from SUP Sarasota, an 18 X 20 inch matted Giclee print from the acclaimed photographer Clyde Butcher, Open Water Diving Class from Florida Underwater Sports, a two-hour excursion on a Yamaha Jet Boat with Sarasota Wind and Water Adventures, a full day bike rental from Freedom 4 Electric Bikes, and a Disc Sports Package from Sun King Disc Sports. The winning raffle tickets will be drawn at 5pm on the music stage.

To make the Water Festival even more appealing there will be a free water taxi all day between Marina Jack in downtown Sarasota and the Sarasota Sailing Squadron. The Squadron is located next to the Water Festival venue at Ken Thompson Park on City Island. Freedom Boat Club is providing the service for the second consecutive year. The free water taxi service begins at 10 am at Marina Jack and the final departure from the Sarasota Sailing Squadron is 6:30 p.m. Signs will be posted along the south side of Marina Jack Restaurant to direct visitors to the dock area. The scenic trip is about 20 minutes and the maximum wait is expected to be 30 minutes. Freedom Boat Club is providing three boats captained by experienced Coast Guard certified captains.

Sarasota Bay is a dynamic ecosystem that has improving water quality and expanding seagrass beds. With an awareness of the importance of the bay, it is hoped that the public will demand proper protections to assure the continued viability of the bay and all its components. The Sarasota Estuary Program is to be commended for the work they have done over the years to improve water quality and enhance a robust habitat. Organizations like Sarasota Bay Watch, Mote Marine Laboratory, Save Our Seabirds and the Florida Wildlife Commission have augmented those efforts to help raise public awareness. The Sarasota Bay Water Festival is a great opportunity for citizens to learn about and get involved in the continued health of Sarasota Bay.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper