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Love of nature shows in poster art

The Florida Manatee festival prides itself on keeping things in the community.

That philosophy extends to its official poster, too. Don Mayo, a local artist, has been the originator of the festival poster for the past four years.

This year's poster is titled Outside the River. "It is a creation of two manatees and a turtle at the surface in the non-hostile environment outside the river where manatees spend most of their time," Mayo says.

Mayo, 51, is a full-time professional waterfowl and marine artist who has lived in Crystal River for almost seven years with his wife, Sue.

He works in acrylics and is active in woodcarving, especially duck decoys, and sculpting.

Mayo says his carvings, which depict various wildlife creatures of the sea, are his main claim to fame. Some can be seen at the Crystal River Mall, where his works range from from full-size pelicans in flight that hang from the rafters to small detailed sandpipers.

In 1984 Mayo created three life-size manatees for Crystal River. The Fiberglas and foam manatees permanently anchor the city's south entrance on U.S. 19.

Mayo says he feels compassion for the manatees. "I think man and manatee can exist together," he says. "As with other endangered species, we must work together to preserve our environment."

Mayo, who is 90 percent deaf, was raised in Virginia. He held several state fishing records in Virginia and still enjoys fly tying and boating in his spare time.

These days he works for Proline Boats, which commissioned a painting titled Yellow Fins and is using it for their advertisements in five major magazines including Florida Sportsman and Motor Boat and Sailing.

He also is working on a sculpting and painting project for the Crystal River Mariculture, a division of Florida Power Corporation.

Being an artist has helped him rub elbows with the famous. After painting Pride, in honor of the troops during the Persian Gulf war, Mayo met Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf at an auction of the work.

This year's festival poster is available for $10 at the festival and at the Mayo Gallery, 547 W Fort Island Trail, Suite H. Earlier posters also are available at the same locations but have increased in value and price.