It's that time again: Check out manatees
A sure sign winter is coming: the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center is open.
The center, along the warm water discharge canal at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station, is open each year from Nov. 1 to April 15. It features a wooden boardwalk over the water, garden and habitat displays, a snack bar and decks to view the manatees.
The animals are attracted to the plant's warm water when temperatures in the bay fall below 68 degrees. On a cold day, dozens of manatees gather right off the observation decks, their snouts sticking up out of the water.
Observers have reported seeing as many as 300 manatees in the canal at once, according to a news release from Tampa Electric. That's about 10 percent of the total manatee population in Florida.
The center also attracts hordes of human visitors, and can be crowded on weekends. Tampa Electric says more than 2.7-million people have visited since the center opened in 1986.
The center is at 6990 Dickman Road, next to the power plant at the end of Big Bend Road. It's open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission and parking are free.
Plant sale to benefit scholarship fund
The Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association will hold a plant auction Saturday at the Hillsborough County Fair.
The sale kicks off at 1 p.m. at the fairgrounds, on State Road 60 between Turkey Creek and Dover roads.
Hundreds of plants will be up for bid and most are expected to go at wholesale prices. Proceeds benefit local youth horticulture scholarships.
Call Steve Bruce at 927-4102 for more information.
Sports center offers self-defense seminar
The Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center will host a free self-defense seminar from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday.
The class will be conducted by the center's martial arts instructor.
The event is open to the public and gives anyone interested a chance to see BSAC's newly upgraded martial arts room. Call 689-0908 for more information.
Festival features chocolate of all kinds
Attention, chocoholics. Plant City community theater's fourth annual Chocolate Festival is Saturday.
The event takes place with the East Hillsborough Historical Society's Pioneer Day at the 1914 High School Community Center, 605 N Collins St.
The festival includes competitions for best cake, candies/novelties and cookies or brownies.
Samples are available starting at 10 a.m. Cost is $2 for five samples or $1 for two.
Profits go to the Plant City Entertainment Inc., Jim Rodgers Memorial Scholarship for Visual Arts.