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GR8RJax™ Road Trip: Blue Springs manatee festival on Saturday

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You’d think with all of the interest in manatees in northeast Florida, not to mention the manatees themselves, that we would have some big manatee fête to educate and enlighten and turn a buck.

You know, when the river’s warm, and they’re here.

But no.

Right now almost all our manatees are on winter va-cay farther south in the state.

What a handy excuse the head for Volusia county this Saturday.

29th Annual Orange City Blue Spring Manatee Festival

The centerpiece of the Orange City Blue Spring Manatee Festival is, of course, the manatee, unique to the western hemisphere.

Although academicians debate the issue, there really is only one other distinct species of sirenian – the dugong native to the Indian Ocean off western Australia.

True enough that our manatees travel when the weather’s warmer – as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts on the Gulf Stream – but mostly they stay right here in Florida where we love them.

The festival proper takes place down the road from where the local and snowbird manatees live, but festival organizers have had the foresight to organize FREE transportation to Blue Spring State Park.

The 2,600-acre park is a designated Manatee Refuge.

It’s been on the maps for a while, too, thanks to a 1766 visit by Colonial botanist John Bartram.

Technically you can even boat to the festival. The park’s biggest spring is on the St. Johns.

So What Happens At A Manatee Festival?

There’s plenty to keep you busy for the two days of the festival.

Among the more colorful, not-quite-manatee-related entertainment?

  • Central Florida Zoo Animal Ambassdors
  • Walk-On-Water Balls
  • Sand Sculpting
  • Disc-Connected K-9s World-Famous Frisbee Dogs
  • Bubba “Whoopass” Wilson & the Whoopoffs & other live entertainments
  • US Army Obstacle Course, Rock Wall Climbing, Bungee Jumping & Ballooon Man Shooting Gallery.

There’s plenty of family-friendly entertainment all day long.

Although in the grayer, cooler days of late January we can all use a lift, the festival’s really not just a party for or about manatees, either.

The proceeds do more than little good in Orange City – some extra moolah for the Friends of Blue Spring State Park, where the manatees live, scholarships for local students and other community projects.

Get ready to hit the highway

Admittedly the Orange City Blue Spring Manatee Festival is a little outside the most liberal interpretation of where even GR8RJax™ may be.

So what?

29th Orange City Blue Spring Manatee Festival

  • Sat., Jan. 25 & Sun., Jan.29, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Admission: Adults $8, Kids 4-10 $2, 3 and under FREE, Dogs $10. See website for discount coupons on kids’ admission.
  • Valentine Park
  • 1151 W. French Ave., off Hwy 17-92
  • (I-4 Exit 114, follow signs)
  • Orange City, Fla. 32774
  • Phone: 386-775-9224
  • E-Mail:


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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact:


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