For Kellie Sipos, there is no greater joy than spending time with animals, whether it's horseback riding or giving Rosie, a crowd-pleasing pot-bellied pig, a belly rub.
On Saturday, Sipos will share her love of animals at the Saddle Up Riding Club's Farm Animal Interaction Day. The event in the barn at the club's 7-acre farm in Pinellas Park offers an opportunity to interact with animals in residence, including horses, rabbits, several ponies, a miniature horse, chickens, roosters, guinea pigs, a pet rat named Violet, and, of course, Rosie.
"We'd like to allow the community the chance to come out to the farm, meet our animals, take a look at our facility, and have horse and pony rides in a safe, friendly environment," said Sipos, who is the founder and executive director of the Saddle Up Riding Club.
This is the first of four animal interaction events being offered on third Saturdays from February through May. Sipos said the events will be very informal and include new offerings from month to month. Admission is free, although the club would appreciate a $2 donation. Horse rides will be available for $5 per ride. Sandals are discouraged because of mud and the possibility of fire ants.
"Families are welcome to come out, look around, take pictures and stay as long as they like, enjoying the fresh air, sunshine and animals," said Sipos. "These barn interaction days are for children, adults, the elderly, and the physically and mentally challenged as well."
Sipos, who is a certified riding instructor and registered therapeutic riding instructor through the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, said life becomes much simpler out on the farm with all of the animals.
"Animals are so in tune to us. Being around them has such a calming effect on everyone. Being at the barn is beyond therapeutic; it is almost a bit of heaven here on earth," she said.
Saddle Up has been in existence since 1994, offering lessons to individuals, group classes, and therapeutic riding for both mentally and physically challenged individuals. Most recently, the riding club has started a new program called Saddle Up For Heroes — therapeutic horseback riding for disabled veterans and their families.
"We are so blessed to have a bit of the country in the middle of one of the most densely populated counties in the state of Florida," said Sipos. "When you are at the barn you forget where you are, the atmosphere is so quiet and serene with all the animals. No matter how busy life may be, it is hard to keep at that pace once you enter the property."
If you go
Farm Animal Interaction Days
2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Saddle Up Riding Club, 6080 94th Ave., Pinellas Park.
Admission: Free. The club suggests a $2 donation, but it is not required. Horse rides will cost $5 per ride.
Information: (727) 520-3132.
Music Fest on the Water: Relax by the water and enjoy the sounds of Jeff Red. 1 to 4 p.m., the Pier, 800 Second Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. Free. Call (727) 821-6443.
Queen of Hearts Sleepover: Children can spend the night in the museum at this fully chaperoned event with museum time, games, dinner, viewing of the movie Alice in Wonderland, snacks, breakfast and more. 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. Great Explorations Children's Museum, 1925 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. $35 per child. Call (727) 821-8992, ext. 218 to register.
Robert Helps Festival: International composition competition and festival hosted by the University of South Florida Symphony Orchestra. 4 p.m. Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $12. Call (727) 822-3590.
Valentine's Day Charity Boot Camp Extravaganza for Haitian Relief: St. Pete Boot Camps offers a boot camp with emphasis on building healthy relationships and working toward sustained fitness. Bring a date for partner-oriented competition. 1 p.m. North Shore Park beach, 1120 North Shore Drive NE, St. Petersburg. Boot Camp is free but participants are encouraged to bring monetary donations for the Haitian Mission Par La Foi Relief. Call (727) 320-7952 or visit stpetebootcamp.com.
Night Hike: Gators, spiders and frogs ... oh, my! Get a close look at some of the creepy crawlies that come out after dusk. 6 p.m. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg. $3, $1.50 kids (reservations suggested). Call (727) 893-7326.
Bike Night: A ride-in bike show for motorcycle owners to show off their wheels with music by Voodoo Soup and prizes for Best of Show. 5 to 8 p.m. Drunken Clam, 46 46th Ave., St. Pete Beach. Free. Call (727) 360-1800.
Boker Movement class: Boker Movement is a whole-body workout to tone and help in weight loss. Presented by Noa Spector-Flock. 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. at Studio@620, 620 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Fee: $7 per class, $20 per week, $75 per month, no one turned away for inability to pay. Call (727) 895-6620.
College Night: See the Botero exhibit at a reduced rate, with Latin music and complimentary coffee from Kahwa. 6 to 8 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. $5 with student ID. (727) 896-2667.
Finding Bimini: In 1513, Ponce de Leon sailed from Puerto Rico to discover and claim Bimini for the King of Spain. He actually found Florida. Explore records to see how explorers gained knowledge of Florida. Recommended for adults only. 7 to 8 p.m. Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg. Free; register at (727) 453-6500.
The Artful Table: Opening reception with tastings by BellaBrava and desserts by the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Tampa and Chef Les Eckert. Juried, invitational exhibit of artfully handcrafted objects for the table. 6 to 8 p.m. Florida Craftsmen Galleries, 501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Free admission. Call (727) 821-7391.
"Violets Go Partying'': Upper Pinellas African Violet Society show and sale, with starter and blooming plants, other gesneriads and supplies. Noon to 5 p.m. Also Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lutheran Church of the Cross, 4545 Chancellor St. NE, St. Petersburg. Free. Call (727) 398-7450.
Flapjacks and Fleas: Event combines an all-you-can-eat flapjack breakfast with an outdoor flea market. 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church, 3150 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $5 flapjacks. Call (727) 323-5857.
Meet the artist: National award-winning artist Ronald L. Marvin Jr. will demonstrate the art of portraiture. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Vincent William Gallery, 320 Corey Ave., St. Pete Beach. Free admission. Call (727) 363-1334.
Pioneer Music Jamboree: Featuring Walter Fields and the Clearwater Bluegrass, Bill Brooks, the Pizazz Song and Dance Troupe, JoeDell and the Mountain Road Band and Linda Darlin and the Literate League. Also crafts, hay rides, log sawing, corn grinding. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pinellas Pioneer Settlement at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 2900 31st St. S, St. Petersburg. $5, $1 children over 2. (727) 893-7326.
Sci-Fi and Sky Night: Planetarium shows from 5:30 to 9:15 p.m., an astronomy lecture by professor Darryl Schrader at 7:15 p.m., a screening of the film Aliens vs. Monsters at 6:30 p.m., Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen at 8:15 p.m. and telescope viewings 7:45 to 11:30 p.m. Pizza and beverages available for purchase 6 to 9 p.m. Science Center of Pinellas County, 7701 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $3 per person. RSVP to (727) 384-0027. For information, go to sciencecenterofpinellas.com.
Tampa Bay Rays Fan Fest: Tampa Bay Rays players, coaches and Major League Baseball alumni will be on hand to meet and sign autographs. Kids get unlimited free autographs. Adults can make a $20 donation to Haiti disaster relief and get unlimited autographs from noon to 5 p.m. Other activities include a clubhouse tour and vendors offering free items. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tropicana Field, 1 Stadium Drive, St. Petersburg. Free. Call toll-free (888) 326-7297 or visit raysbaseball.com.