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Earthdays event reminds visitors why they love Honeymoon, Caladesi islands

DUNEDIN — Visitors to Honeymoon Island State Park will have more than just sandy beaches and natural surroundings to explore this weekend as the Friends of the Island Parks hosts the fourth annual Island Earthdays festival Saturday and Sunday.

The event, which coincides with Earth Day on Thursday, is a celebration of both the environment and the beauty that Honeymoon and Caladesi islands have to offer.

In its first year, Island Earthdays was primarily a seafood festival in the parking lot of the popular state park.

But organizers thought festival participants weren't experiencing all that the island has to offer, so they moved the event into the picnic area and surrounding wooded hiking trails.

"We didn't feel it was keeping with the natural feeling a state park should give you," said Barry Metcalfe, Friends of the Island Parks president, "so we moved it to the sun-dappled palm trees near the picnic area."

The group also changed the festival to focus more on eco-friendly activities and environmental education, and less on just food and drink.

The event features exhibits highlighting the park's flora and fauna. Craft vendors will sell eco-friendly products, and other local nonprofit animal and environmental organizations also will have displays.

Activities include Hawaiian outrigger and kayak races, bungee jumping, a rock wall and the chance to make a rain barrel.

There will be nature talks and presentations and guided walks on the island's hiking trails.

"It's free, and it's a great day out for the whole family," Metcalfe said.

A variety of musical groups will perform throughout the weekend, and food, beer and wine will be for sale.

Most of the activities at Island Earthdays are free, but the park does charge an admission fee.

Friends of the Island Parks uses proceeds from Island Earthdays to supplement state funding to Honeymoon and Caladesi islands and to buy items the park staff can't afford.

Proceeds also are used to maintain the nature center on the island, which has been open for three years.

"To keep it nice takes a lot of work and a lot of volunteers," Metcalfe said.

Friends of the Island Parks has more than 200 volunteers who do everything from pick up trash to work at the nature center.

Metcalfe said Island Earthdays is run by volunteers and raised more than $27,000 last year.

Volunteers do it because they appreciate the unique experience of visiting Florida islands in their natural state.

"Imagine a world without parks if Honeymoon and Caladesi islands had been built up like some of the other islands," Metcalfe said. "Our world would diminish in quality."

IF YOU GO

Island Earthdays

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Honeymoon Island State Park

Cost: A donation of $8 per vehicle at the gate includes free parking. Up to eight people per vehicle. Pets permitted on 6-foot hand-held leashes. Most events are free, and food and beverages will be for sale.

For more information: Call (727) 738-2903 (nature center) or e-mail Info@IslandParks.org.

Earthdays event reminds visitors why they love Honeymoon, Caladesi islands 04/15/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 15, 2010 3:50pm]
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