South Florida Museum holds 65th birthday bash for Snooty the Manatee

Snooty the Manatee

Snooty the Manatee. Credit: South Florida Museum

Snooty, the official mascot of Manatee County, turns 65 on Sunday, but this year his South Florida Museum home is hosting a spectacular birthday party for the new senior citizen a day early on Saturday, July 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A longtime Manatee County tradition, past parties for Snooty have traditionally included a children’s birthday card contest and treats for the kids, but this year the Museum’s free 65th Birthday Bash and Wildlife Awareness Festival is expected to be the largest one ever held.

Parker-Aquarium

The South Florida Museum in Bradenton is expecting a big crowd for Snooty’s Birthday Bash and Wildlife Festival. Credit: Deborah J Bell

10th Street West in front of the museum will be closed to traffic during the event, and visitors can enjoy entertainment and presentations from the Garbage Band, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, and Pure Dancers, as well as a misting station and water slide, face painting, balloon twisting and children’s games galore.

In addition, visitors will have opportunities to learn about environmental preservation and interact with wildlife and arts organizations from all over the area, including Mote Marine Laboratory, the Bat Conservancy, Busch Gardens, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Bradenton Marauders, Bishop Animal Shelter, Save the Manatee Club, Sara Bay Estuary Program, Manatee County Natural Resources Department, and Envirokids, among others.

Snooty will receive a special fruit and veggie "cake" on his big day. Credit: South Florida Museum

Snooty will receive a special fruit and veggie “cake” on his big day. Credit: South Florida Museum

The highlight of the party is scheduled for noon in the museum’s Parker Aquarium, where Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston is expected to lead the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to Manatee County’s most beloved aquatic celebrity. Snooty will then be presented with a specially prepared fruit and veggie “cake,” made from the manatee’s favorite healthy treats.

NetWeave Social Media is hosting the presentation of Snooty’s birthday cake for the South Florida Museum in an online livecast on Livestream from 11:50 a.m.- 12:20 p.m. on June 20th. To register for the livecast, follow this link. Pre-registration is suggested.

Snooty is the world’s oldest known manatee on record, having started life at the old Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company in 1948, and he has the distinction of his being the first recorded birth of a manatee in captivity. “Baby Snoots,” as he was known then, was brought to Bradenton as part of the 1949 Desoto Celebration, and has since greeted more than one million visitors.

Snooty is a big ham when it comes to media attention. Credit: Deborah J Bell

Snooty is a big ham when it comes to media attention. Credit: Deborah J Bell

Snooty has participated in training with New College and the Mote Marine Laboratory staff, contributing to our knowledge of manatees and their physiology. He is the subject of informative talks given several times daily at the Manatee Parker Aquarium, covering everything from questions about eating habits (an herbivore, Snooty consumes 80-90 lbs. of lettuce, carrots, kale, cabbage, collards, bok choy, broccoli, and apples each day) to reproduction (as manatees cannot be bred in captivity, Snooty himself has remained a bachelor to this day).

The Festival itself is free, and reduced admission to the Museum and Planetarium. Credit: Deborah J Bell

The Saturday Festival is free to all, while the Museum is offering discounted admission rates. Credit: Deborah J Bell

The Parker Manatee Aquarium holds nearly 60,000 gallons of water, including a medical pool, and was designed to house three adult manatees. As part of the Manatee Rehabilitation Network, Snooty currently shares his space with two young rehabilitating manatees that will eventually be released back into the wild. Since 1997, more than 25 manatees have been cared for at the Aquarium.

The festival in the Museum’s Spanish Plaza and on outside on 10th Street is free, and there is reduced admission to the Museum, Planetarium & Aquarium all day Saturday. For more information, call 941-746-4131 or visit southfloridamuseum.org.

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Legendary Budweiser Clydesdales make big impression on Suncoast tour

Intro-Horses-in-trailer

A team comprised of eight tons of meticulously curried and combed horseflesh showed off some of its finest moves recently in front of an enthusiastic audience at Riverwalk Park in Bradenton, FL.

Clydesdale duoResplendent in patent leather harness and sparkling brass tack, the majestic Budweiser Clydesdales delighted observers by demonstrating lively sideways stepping maneuvers and a series of tight circle turns, all with the traditional crate-laden beer wagon in tow.

2013 marks the 80th anniversary of the Budweiser Clydesdales, first introduced to the public on April 7, 1933, when August Anheuser Busch, Jr. presented the hitch as a gift to his father to celebrate of the end of Prohibition. Clydesdales became the symbol of quality and tradition for Anheuser-Busch and have been used in promotion and advertising ever since.

Today, Anheuser-Busch has one of the world’s largest herds of Clydesdale horses and owns more than 220 nationwide. Three hitches of Clydesdales and their accompanying handlers tour different regions of the country 320 days out of every year.

Massive-CollarBraving blustery weather and brisk temperatures, several hundred interested onlookers gathered at the downtown Bradenton park to get a glimpse of the massive draft horses, marvel at their size and gentle temperament, and learn about their care.

While waiting for the team to be unloaded, members of the crowd talked about their enthusiasm for this year’s heart-tugging Budweiser Superbowl commercial starring a newborn baby Clydesdale. Others divulged their desire to share the experience of viewing the magnificent animals in person with their children (or grandchildren), as their own parents had done before them.

Watch the 2013 Budweiser Clydesdale Superbowl ad.

Polish-wagonThe first thing unloaded from the tour’s three 50-foot tractor-trailers was the familiar red, white and gold Budweiser wagon. Attendants were quick to wipe down all surfaces and polish its numerous brass fixtures to a gleaming shine. A full parade polish of all of the brass from start to finish could last as long as four hours, but a simple brush up takes just 30 minutes.

Surprisingly, this modern version of the Budweiser beer wagon is hollow. Because a fully loaded wagon can weigh more than 7,000 pounds, reducing its weight to 4,000 pounds means that the team of eight horses has a much easier job. “It’s not that the team couldn’t pull 7,000 pounds,” laughed one of the handlers, “they easily could. But whether or not they would want to do it, that’s another matter altogether.”

BrewerBefore being loaded into the semis, the stars of the show, the eight magnificent geldings that comprise the team, had already been washed, brushed and had their manes braided with ribbons and roses by expert groomers. After unloading, it was a 45-minute job to harness and hitch them all. The horses distinctive 130-pound flared black collars are custom-made and individually fitted to each animal. A complete set of collar and harness for eight horses costs over $70,000.

With all of the horses hitched and ready to go, the nostalgic picture was completed by the arrival of “Brewer,” the aptly-named Budweiser Dalmatian mascot, who leapt atop the wagon to take his rightful position alongside the driver.

Clydesdale-frame-DriverAfter a performance showcasing both the horses’ training and the driver’s handling skills, curious onlookers were allowed to step up for a closer look at the magnificent animals and have their questions answered by handlers. Unperturbed by the hundreds of camera flashes from a constantly milling crowd hovering mere inches from their massive frames, all of the “gentle giants” displayed the calm temperament essential in a job that involves meeting millions of enthusiastic fans each year.

Horses chosen for the Budweiser Clydesdale hitch must be geldings at least four years of age, stand approximately 18 hands (six feet) at the shoulder, and weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds. They must be bay in color, have four white stockings, a blaze of white on the face, and a black mane and tail.

During their week-long Suncoast visit, the horses were stabled in Myakka, FL. Sunday was their final appearance locally; the team’s next scheduled event is in Daytona Beach. Gold Coast Eagle Distributing sponsored the Clydesdale events on the Suncoast.

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