The southernmost island chain's vibrant marine environment is to be celebrated Saturday, March 29, with live music, artistry, kids' activities, educational exhibits and more during the fifth annual Florida Keys Ocean Festival & Waterfront Craft Show.
Presented by Florida-based Mote Marine Laboratory, the event is set for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, located on Key West's Truman Waterfront past the end of Southard Street. Admission and parking are free.
The visitor center for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the facility showcases the region's unique ecosystem including the living coral reef that parallels the Keys. Highlights include a living reef exhibit created by Mote Marine Laboratory.
The 5k Tuna Trot Race for the Reef is to be held in conjunction with the festival, offering a competitive challenge that supports the Keys' undersea world.
Marine life artist Wyland, internationally acclaimed for his work to preserve and protect the ocean realm, is to be a special guest at the festival. Wyland is to paint with attending children at 1 p.m. and give a painting demonstration at 4 p.m. with his creations auctioned for charity.
Ocean Fest attendees can explore conservation and environmental exhibits from more than 30 organizations, meet live animals and experience touch tanks, view and purchase wares from more than 70 local marine artists and vendors, rock to the sounds of Howard Livingston and Mile Marker 24 plus other musicians, bid on silent auction items and vie for a variety of prizes.
A free fishing seminar is planned for kids ages 5 to 11 that features instruction and barge fishing. To participate, youngsters must register online at www.keysoceanfest.org. Rods and reels await the first 100 seminar participants.
Runners and walkers can compete in the 5k Tuna Trot presented by Key West's Smokin' Tuna Saloon. Beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Eco-Discovery Center, racers are to follow a flat, fast course through Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and the Truman Annex harbor area.
Proceeds and donations from the festival and race are to support Mote Marine Laboratory's coral reef restoration and research programs.
For more fun things to do in Key West, see my stories and slide shows highlighted below.