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Awareness is focus of environmental fest

Some people call them "armchair environmentalists." They are the people who say they care about the environment when asked, who have heard some of the horror stories and who hate to see litter lining the roads.

But they stop short of taking action.

Most of the time, it is not that they are too busy or they do not care enough. It is because they just don't know what they can do.

That is one reason Leslie and Alan Frederiksen decided to start the Environmental Awareness Festival at the Red Roe Restaurant they own in Ozona.

"It's not so much that people don't care about the environment," Mrs. Frederiksen said. "It's just that they don't know what's going on. I just had this real strong feeling that we had to do something to make them aware of what's going on."

That something became the Environmental Awareness Festival, now in its third year. The festival will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Held along the creek behind the Red Roe, 303 Orange St., Ozona, the festival is designed to help people learn more about the environment and what they can do to help, said Mike MacDonald, a member of the Pinellas Area Coalition of Environmentalists (PACE), which helps sponsor the festival. He pointed out that getting involved doesn't necessarily have to be time-consuming.

"If one person just decides to start recycling, that can make a difference," MacDonald said.

"We're not so much interested in getting people involved in the sense that we want them to join organizations, but .

.

. we want them to be aware of what the issues and the problems are and how the individual can do something," he said.

The festival grows and changes each year. Frederiksen said an effort was made this year to make sure the festival offered something different from the past two years.

About 25 environmental groups from the Tampa Bay area and around the state will participate, distributing information and offering items for sale.

Food such as smoked mullet, smoked amberjack and steamed shrimp will be available, and entertainment will be featured.

Entertainment includes Dale and Sue Webber, folk singers from Brooksville. At 3 p.m., Susan Taylor will perform an environmental skit in dance and mime. Taylor teaches dance at the University of Tampa.

"We wanted something where people could learn about the environment while having a good time," Mrs. Frederiksen said. At the same time, the festival supports environmental causes by donating all profits to the environmental groups that participate.

The organizations will be passing out general information about the environment and will offer tips about what individuals can do to help. Membership information also will be available.

"A lot of people want to become members of things, but it's so hard to take that first step," Mrs. Frederiksen said. "They don't know where to call or how to go about it."

The groups at the festival will include chapters of the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, the Center for Marine Conservation, Tampa Reforestation, Gulf Watch, the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary and the Florida Native Plant Society, among others.

State agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud) will be represented.

MacDonald said working in the environmental movement can be discouraging because it often seems like so few people are involved. But he and others think events such as the festival are among the best ways to make more people aware of environmental issues that affect everyone's lives.

"If you reach one person and one person does something, you've made a difference," he said.

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