Saturday, February 24, 2018
Events

In second year at Weeki Wachee Springs, Swamp Fest promises more and better

WEEKI WACHEE

When the annual Weeki Wachee Swamp Fest returned to its namesake town last year and made Weeki Wachee Springs State Park its home, organizers were able to offer much more than they could in previous years. And when the 21st annual Swamp Fest kicks off Friday, visitors will have a chance to experience even more.

"This is our second year at Weeki Wachee Springs," said festival president Joe Meloni. "Last year, we were able to offer so much more to the festival, and this year we've refined and improved upon it."

Meloni said visitors will have a chance to check out a variety of new arts and craft vendors offering unique gifts, as well as a number of food vendors.

"The arts and crafts vendors seem to be our biggest draw," Meloni said. "Most (items) are handmade by very talented people. They are works of art."

The 2014 Swamp Monster will be crowned on Saturday morning. There also will be about 200 prize drawings throughout the event, with two grand prizes this year: a 14-karat gold pendant by Samson Jewelers and a gas grill from Home Depot.

Visitors also can enjoy expanded musical entertainment, with top area groups — such as Chrome, Honkey Tonk Hit Men, Dangerous Ground, Franc Roberts and Danielle Pacifico — performing country, blues and rock.

"The entertainment is definitely much better," Meloni said. "A higher quality of performers."

As part of the festivities, visitors can experience everything that is offered at Weeki Wachee Springs. There will be added mermaid shows and river cruises, and visitors can check out the new animal theater.

"It's a win-win situation for everyone," said John Athanason, marketing coordinator at Weeki Wachee Springs.

Athanason said there will be five mermaid shows on both Saturday and Sunday, starting at 11 a.m. The regular show will be shown three times, and there will be two shows performed by the popular former mermaids, who range in age from the late 40s to 74.

"The former mermaids are very popular," Athanason said. "They are inspirational. There are those who swam back in the springs' heyday. . . . It's a nostalgic kick."

The partnership between the Swamp Fest organizers and the state park has worked well for everyone, organizers say.

"Weeki Wachee Springs is a natural fit for us," Meloni said. "They have been very gracious, great partners."

The entire event is put together by volunteers. And Meloni said its success would not be possible without the support of the community.

"I'm amazed at the effort that everyone puts into it," he said.

"Last year's (event) exceeded all our expectations," Athanason said. "(Organizers) put a lot of planning into this event. They addressed everything and got it down to a science. . . . We're happy to be a part of it."

Due to the expected large crowds, on-site parking will be limited to those with wheelchairs and scooters. All others are asked to park 2 1/2 miles east on Cortez Boulevard at the Sand Hill Scout Reservation, where free shuttle service will be provided.

Event organizers said they realize there were some issues with last year's shuttle service. Meloni promises those issues have been resolved.

"We increased the amount of buses transporting between the (two sites)," he said. "It should make it flow more smoothly."

"I think we're going to have the best Swamp Fest we've ever seen," Athanason said.

Comments
Your 4-year-old daughter could land a role in ‘Waitress’ at the Straz

Your 4-year-old daughter could land a role in ‘Waitress’ at the Straz

TAMPA — Could your 4-year-old be the next Lulu? A touring Broadway show wants to find out. Waitress, which runs April 24-29 at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, is looking for a local 4- to 5-year old to play a small but c...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Top things to do on Friday, Feb. 23

Top things to do on Friday, Feb. 23

Blast Friday: The Romantics: The family-friendly food and craft vendor festival featuring a free live concert and a beer garden. 5:30 p.m., 400 Block of Cleveland Street, Osceola Avenue and Cleveland Street, Clearwater. Free. (727) 464-7200. Pasco C...
Published: 02/23/18
The Florida Orchestra taps composer Michael Ippolito to capture the state’s sound

The Florida Orchestra taps composer Michael Ippolito to capture the state’s sound

ST. PETERSBURG — The composer sat in semi-darkness, his hand drifting like a slow pendulum at his side. On the Mahaffey Theater stage, the violins led a creaking and mysterious journey through a cypress swamp, the inspiration for the first movement.T...
Published: 02/23/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Feb. 24

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Feb. 24

Bay Area Renaissance Festival: Pirates and Pets: A time-travel village of kings, queens, jousting, jugglers, mimes, madrigals, archery contests and a human chess match. 10 a.m., Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. $21.95...
Published: 02/22/18
Updated: 02/23/18
‘Annihilation’ is strange, beautiful biological mystery

‘Annihilation’ is strange, beautiful biological mystery

Alex Garland’s Annihilation is a bracing blend of cerebral sci-fi and grindhouse terror, a genre movie that’s more, maybe too much for some viewers.Based on Tallahassee author Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, Annihilation on the surface is a dead-ducks missi...
Published: 02/22/18
Review: John Dufresne gives an entertaining short course in ‘Flash! Writing the Very Short Story’

Review: John Dufresne gives an entertaining short course in ‘Flash! Writing the Very Short Story’

Don’t tell John Dufresne you don’t have time to read.In fact, don’t tell him you don’t have time to write. Instead, spend a little time with his new book, Flash! Writing the Very Short Story. You’ll find a treasure trove of stories you can read in th...
Published: 02/22/18
Plan your weekend: Monster Energy Supercross. Gasparilla Distance Classic, Clearwater Sea-Blues Festival, slam poet Neil Hilborn

Plan your weekend: Monster Energy Supercross. Gasparilla Distance Classic, Clearwater Sea-Blues Festival, slam poet Neil Hilborn

Extreme Monster Energy Supercross Championship: The action-packed dirt bike stunts and racing returns to Tampa for the first time in two decades. Each track in the 16-city series is different, so competitors will ride between 15 and 20 laps around t...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/22/18
As spring approaches, parties, food festivals bloom at Florida’s theme parks

As spring approaches, parties, food festivals bloom at Florida’s theme parks

Can you feel it? The air is gradually thickening with humidity and the layers of clothes are getting thinner. Spring has almost sprung and with it brings a bumper crop of festivals in Florida’s theme parks full of food, wine, concerts and parades. Th...
Published: 02/21/18
An original clarinet and bassoon composition highlights Tampa Bay Symphony concert

An original clarinet and bassoon composition highlights Tampa Bay Symphony concert

ST. PETERSBURG — After the National Anthem and some introductory remarks by the maestro, a teacher from Chattanooga, Tenn., addressed a crowd at the Palladium Tuesday about the short work they were about to hear from the Tampa Bay Symphony."This piec...
Published: 02/21/18
Innovative artist Toni Dove’s Embodied Machines and Bekky Buekes’ Black. White. Gold.

Innovative artist Toni Dove’s Embodied Machines and Bekky Buekes’ Black. White. Gold.

Toni Dove: Embodied MachinesIf you were feeling like your art viewing experiences haven’t been high-tech enough lately, the "Embodied Machines" exhibition opening at the Ringling Museum on Sunday will fill that void. It’s the first survey exhibition ...
Published: 02/21/18