The unique marine environment of the Keys island chain, which includes the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef, is to be celebrated Saturday, March 30, during the fourth annual Florida Keys Ocean Festival & Waterfront Craft Show.
For the first time, the 5k Tuna Trot Race for the Reef is to be held in conjunction with the festival, offering runners and walkers a competitive challenge that supports the Keys’ undersea world.
Presented by Florida-based Mote Marine Laboratory, the family-friendly free-admission Ocean Festival is set for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Scheduled attractions include live music, arts and crafts, kids’ activities including face painting, educational displays, food and beverages, a silent auction and more.
World-renowned marine life artist Wyland and acclaimed aquatic artist Pasta Pantaleo are to be special guests, giving painting demonstrations and showing their support for the Keys reef environment.
The festivities take place at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, located on Key West’s Truman Waterfront past the end of Southard Street. The visitor center for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the facility houses exhibits that showcase the region’s unique ecosystem including a living reef exhibit created by Mote Marine Laboratory.
Attendees at the lively festival can explore conservation and environmental exhibits from more than 30 organizations, meet live animals and experience touch tanks, view and purchase the work of local marine artists and craftspeople, rock to the sounds of Howard Livingston and Mile Marker 24 plus other musicians, bid on silent auction items and vie for a variety of prizes.
A fishing seminar is planned for kids ages 5-11 that features instruction and barge fishing. To participate, youngsters must register online at www.keysoceanfest.org
. Free rods and reels await the first 100 registrants.
Running and walking enthusiasts can compete in the 5k Tuna Trot presented by Key West’s Smokin’ Tuna Saloon beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, March 30, at the Eco-Discovery Center. Racers are to follow a flat, fast course through Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and the Truman Annex harbor area. Participants can register at www.active.com/running/key-west-fl/smokin-tuna-saloon-5k-tuna-trot-2013
Proceeds and donations from the festival and race are to support Mote Marine Laboratory’s coral reef restoration and research programs.