The 36th annual Manatee Festival will take over downtown Crystal River on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14 and 15, for two full days of vendors, entertainment and visiting manatees in our beautiful local springs.
There will be nearly 400 vendors selling all kinds of crafts and goodies, Art in the Park in the town square, two food courts, two beer and wine gardens, a kids zone with fun activities and more.
“If you can come both days, we recommend it,” said Jade White, Citrus County Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman. “We are super excited. This is a great opportunity to highlight the beauty of Crystal River and our local downtown businesses, as well as for local residents to be tourists in their hometown.”
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To see our famous manatees up close during the event, there will be guided kayak tours of Kings Bay with Hunter Springs Kayaks. Tour guides will take visitors on a one-hour tour of the bay and Hunter Springs area. Book online ahead of time at gomanateefest.com.
Manatee boat tours are back again with Manatee Eco-Tourism Association (META) as well for a nominal fee. Local boat captains through META will offer boat tours on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets will be available at the boat dock area near Northwest Third Street in Kings Bay Park.
There will also be free bus rides to Three Sisters Springs and free access to the new Friends of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center during festival hours. Visitors can catch the buses near the entry gate on Fifth Street beginning at 9 a.m. both days. The last pickup is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
Music and entertainment will be featured on three stages: Waterfront Main Stage, Northwest 3rd Street at Kings Bay Park; Pumphouse Stage, adjacent to Town Square off Northeast 1st Street; and Heritage Village Gazebo Stage, North Citrus Avenue at Heritage House.
The Saturday headliner will be Fleetwood Max, nationally touring Fleetwood Mac cover band, at the Waterfront Main Stage from 3 to 5 p.m.
On Sunday, a celebrity appearance by DJ Trae with 99.9 Fox News Radio and 103.9 The Boot will be at 1 p.m. on the Pumphouse Stage. Also, Moonflower will rock the Waterfront Main Stage from 2:30 to 4 p.m. with their amazing Grand Funk Railroad Tribute followed by their outstanding Santana Tribute.
More entertainment with The JoJo & Jay experience, Gypsy Sparrow, Barefoot Bob & The Hope, and more can be found on one of the three stages.
Come and see the numerous local nonprofit organizations ready to share the work and impacts they make daily in the community, including Save the Manatee Club, Ziggy’s Haven Bird Sanctuary, Scubanauts, Florida Skunk Rescue and more.
“Whatever you choose to do at this year’s festival, you are sure to have a great time,” said Crystal River Mayor Joe Meek.
The festival hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, in downtown Crystal River, at the intersection of Citrus Avenue and U.S. Highway 19. The cost of entry is $5 per person; ages 12 and under are free.
There is free parking available at the former Crystal River Mall, 1801 N.W. U.S. 19, with free shuttle buses to the event. There is very limited street and handicap parking available in the downtown area, so it is recommended that visitors utilize the free parking and shuttle arrangements.
For more information and full schedule of activities, go to the event website at gomanateefest.com, follow @FloridaManatee Festival on Facebook, or call the Chamber at 352-795-3149.
Contact Chronicle Reporter Georgia Sullivan at 352-564-2929.