Help celebrate Bradenton's Snooty the manatee celebrate turning 65

mclear@bradenton.comJuly 18, 2013 

One of the featured stories on the AARP website this week is about Bradenton's favorite marine mammal.

Snooty, the official mascot of Manatee County, turns 65 on Sunday. That makes him a senior citizen, and according to the website, he's now a "proud AARP member."

Turning 65 is a much bigger deal for a manatee than it is for a human. Snooty is the oldest representative of his subspecies -- he's a Florida manatee, a kind of West Indian manatee -- who has ever lived.

"Every year that we have Snooty, in fact every day that we have him, he sets a new record," said Jessica Schubick, the communications manager for the South Florida Museum, where Snooty has resided since 1949.

Snooty's Birthday Bash is always one of the biggest events of the summer in Manatee County, but this year, Schubick said, "it's going to be bigger and better than ever."

From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday -- a day in advance of Snooty's actual birthday -- the museum's Spanish Plaza, and the block of 10th Street in front of the museum, will be packed with games, activities and exhibits.

Because the festival's so much bigger than unusual this year, for the first time, the block of 10th Street in front of the museum will be closed to traffic.

The focus of the festival is always wildlife awareness, so a lot of the activities will focus on the importance of Florida's wild animals and their environment. Mote Marine Laboratory and an organization called the Bat Conservancy will both be on hand to let festival-goers get up-close and personal with the kinds of wildlife they work with.

But there will be plenty of just-plain-fun stuff too, Schubick said, including a water slide, food trucks and music from the Garbage-Men, a local band that turns recycled materials into instruments.

For Snooty himself, who will remain largely oblivious to the celebration going on in his honor, the highlight will be the presentation of annual birthday "cake."

"It's actually lettuce and pineapple juice and strawberries," Schubick said. "All the things Snooty loves."

The birthday bash is just one part of the Snooty celebration. Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston proclaimed Sunday "We Love Snooty the Manatee Day" in the city. And all day Saturday, the South Florida museum is offering half-price admission -- $8 for adults, $7 for seniors.

The museum has also created a concoction called "Snooty's Choice Peach Tea" (inspired by Snooty's love of fruit, Schubick said) and a "Snooty Memory Book" with pictures of Snooty. Both will be for sale in the museum. The festival is for free, though there's a nominal charge for some of the activities, 35 cents or so, and you can still see Snooty and his temporary tank-mates, Cheeno and Longo, through the glass on the museum's plaza.

Snooty, who was born in captivity in Miami in 1948 and came to Bradenton the next year, seems to be doing pretty well for his age. But he's showing some signs of slowing down. Mostly, he sleeps a little more than usual, Schubick said. (Manatees sleep by holding their breath, so they only sleep for 10 or 20 minutes at a time.) And he's losing some muscle tone around his neck and shoulders, which have always been unusually strong because he pulls himself out of the water so often to interact with people.

Details: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. July 20, South Florida Museum, 201 10th St. W., Bradenton. Tickets: Free. Information: 941-746-4131, www.southfloridamuseum.org.


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