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Winter the dolphin’s ‘Celebration of Life’ set for Saturday

People will have the chance to pay tribute to the famous dolphin through Nov. 24.
Flowers and drawings remain at a memorial site for Winter the dolphin on Friday, Nov, 12, 2021, on the north side of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater. The 16-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, who was the star of the hit movie Dolphin Tale, died Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, as animal care experts from around the country worked to treat a gastrointestinal infection at the aquarium. During preparation for a procedure, the CMA Animal Care team observed that Winter’s behavior and vital signs were declining. The medical team tried several life-saving efforts, but she died being held by her caregivers.
Flowers and drawings remain at a memorial site for Winter the dolphin on Friday, Nov, 12, 2021, on the north side of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater. The 16-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, who was the star of the hit movie Dolphin Tale, died Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, as animal care experts from around the country worked to treat a gastrointestinal infection at the aquarium. During preparation for a procedure, the CMA Animal Care team observed that Winter’s behavior and vital signs were declining. The medical team tried several life-saving efforts, but she died being held by her caregivers. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Nov. 14
Updated Nov. 15

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium will hold a celebration of life Saturday for Winter the dolphin, the beloved star of the “Dolphin Tale” movies who died Thursday.

The event is open to the public, and aquarium officials encouraged those who were touched by Winter’s story to celebrate her life and impact. Several events are planned, beginning Saturday, and will run through Nov. 24.

The aquarium will charge a reduced admission rate of $16 per person on Saturday and Sunday in remembrance of Winter’s 16 years of life. A portion of all funds will go to the care of the aquarium’s animals and rehabilitation efforts, according to a post on the aquarium’s Facebook page.

The Clearwater aquarium cared for Winter since she was rescued on Dec. 10, 2005, in Mosquito Lagoon near Cape Canaveral on Florida’s east coast. At just 2 months old, Winter’s tail became entangled in a crab trap. She ultimately lost her tail, but became famous for using a prosthetic tail.

Her story of resilience has inspired people around the world, including those with disabilities. Her story was adapted into two major motion pictures, Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2, starring Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd.

Tributes to Winter include a special presentation focused on Winter’s life and legacy. Original footage of Winter’s rescue and her life will be shown in the Dolphin Tale theatre throughout each day, the Facebook post said.

The aquarium closed Friday to allow staff to mourn. It reopened Saturday, where aquarium employees pinned cards, photographs, letters and drawings in remembrance.

Winter died of intestinal torsion, or twisted intestines, a preliminary necropsy report confirmed Saturday.

The torsion was impossible to reach through surgery, aquarium veterinarian Shelly Marquardt said Saturday. The aquarium takes comfort knowing it did everything they could for Winter, officials said in a statement.

The aquarium launched a website for those unable to attend to attend in person, RememberingWinter.com, that includes an obituary and a place to share condolences. The website has raised nearly $25,000 since Friday for the aquarium.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has responded to messages from the public asking about their other rescued animals. They are showing no signs of illness and are getting extra love and attention, officials said.