Last weekend, while we were at the zoo, my daughter saw a poster for the 29th Annual Manatee Festival in Orange City. Yes, the 29th annual, yet we'd never been even once. She wanted to go, so we did. We had an absolutely delightful time, and have already vowed to go next year. We were also glad we got there early, because boy, it did get crowded! It had the typical festival things - fair food (fried) and face painting, performing dogs, musical acts - which actually were better than the usual at such things, though my daughter didn't like the first band, I thought they were at least tolerable. My standards are pretty low for festival band performers. If I don't actually wince while listening, they are good.
The Central Florida Zoo had small animals for visiting/touching, there was an arts and crafts area where we bought spice mixes for dips, and fell in love with the work of a local artist - I wish he had a website, but he does not. He's from China, and does traditional technique paintings on silk. I'd love to own one of the originals, but I'd settle for a larger print or two. As festival artists go he was truly above and beyond the usual fare, and a very nice man.
This festival also marked the weekend when Delaney officially got over her fear of bounce houses, to the point where she threw a full-on fit when forced to leave it so we could go see something else. She got to have a second session in it after we saw the manatees.
There were 371 manatees in the spring today - the last count I saw was that there are only about 4800 in Florida, so this was quite a gathering by any standard. They don't tolerate cold weather, so when the coastal waters they normally inhabit get cold, as they have been lately, they congregate at the natural springs, where the water is always 72 degrees. I have seen manatees in the wild before, but never, ever, this many. It was almost...hypnotic. There is something about them, they affect me like sitting near a waterfall. I seriously could sit on a bench and just watch them doing...basically nothing...for an afternoon.
I expected Delaney to lose interest in them after a couple of minutes, but she was as enchanted by them as the grownups. We spent a long time at the spring, just walking along the boardwalk and watching these huge, placid, gentle, so unique creatures.
A few facts about manatees.
And one of my favorite fun manatee websites: Calming Manatee. I'm not the only one affected by them this way.