Bradenton celebrates Snooty's birthday

mclear@bradenton.comJuly 16, 2014 

He's not only the world's oldest manatee, he is the most famous. He's almost certainly the only manatee for whom thousands of people turn out for his birthday party every year.

Snooty's Birthday Bash is one of the biggest parties of the summer in Bradenton.

Snooty's official birthday is July 21 -- he'll be 66 this year -- but the people at the South Florida Museum will hold his Birthday Bash two days earlier from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday.

The area outside of the museum will be home to all sorts of family friendly fun, including games, wildlife awareness exhibits and activities and food vendors. It's all free and open to the public.

Live music will be provided by the Garbage-Men, a nationally known band from Sarasota. The band members make all their instruments out of discarded materials -- from cereal boxes to broken toys.

This will be the fourth straight year the Garbage-Men have performed at Snooty's Birthday Bash. They'll be joined this year by a group called the Cortez Main Hatch Motleys, a local group that sings sea chanties.

The main attraction, though is Snooty himself. He'll be visible from the plaza.

Jessica Shubick, communications manager for the museum, said Snooty is definitely aware he's the guest of honor.

"It's the only time of the year he gets his two favorite things -- pineapple and strawberries," she said. "He has a sweet tooth, but he only gets those on his birthday now because we're trying to keep him healthy. He also gets a lot of attention, and he loves that. He loves people."

Last year, when Snooty turned 65, the museum made a little bigger deal out of it than usual. He was even featured in a story in the AARP magazine. Shubick said about 6,000 people turned out for the bash last year. This year, she said, the museum expects more like 5,000.

Everything happens in the museum's plaza along 10th Street, which will be closed from Third Avenue and Barcarrota Avenue, and in the parking lot on the river side of the museum. The parking lot will be home to more than 20 exhibits and presentations from wildlife groups and other nonprofits.

As far as anyone knows, there's never been another manatee anywhere near as old as Snooty, Schubick said. The next-oldest manatee was a little over 50.

These days, most manatees only live to be 8 to 10 years old because of environmental factors such as boat strikes and cold -- all of which Snooty has been protected from his whole life.

"That's one of the ideas we're trying to get across," Schubick said. "If we can take care of our manatees, they can live much, much longer."

Details: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. July 19, South Florida Museum, 201 10th St. W,, Bradenton. Tickets: Free. Information: 941-746-4131, southfloridamuseum.org.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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