BRADENTON -- It's a birthday party many children and adults alike look forward to each year in Bradenton.
It's not your typical birthday party, however, because the birthday boy weighs 1,020 pounds.
Hundreds of people came to the South Florida Museum in downtown Bradenton on Saturday to celebrate Snooty the manatee's 66th birthday.
Young Ashley DeJarette was excited to see Snooty as she clutched onto a stuffed manatee.
"We are down here every year for his birthday," Ashley's mother, Julie DeJarette, said. " I think she's been coming to see Snooty since she was born.
The mother and daughter enjoy regular visits to the museum, she said.
"It's just like a fixture here in Bradenton," DeJarette said.
The oldest known manatee in captivity in the world, Snooty has been an icon for many who grew up in Bradenton and a unique experience for the city's visitors.
Marie Walker has been coming to visit Snooty for about 46 years.
"His tank wasn't so pretty then," Walker said. "It was really nice to bring our kids here."
All three of her children grew up visiting Snooty regularly, she said.
"I have one daughter that grew up and became a marine biologist," Walker said.
Regular visits to see Snooty definitely had an influence on her, she said.
"I think Bradenton has done a really good job in promoting stewardship," Walker said.
Staff at the South Florida Museum were out in full force for Snotty's birthday, including those who know him best.
Colin Ott, a manatee care specialist, enjoys working hands on with Snooty.
"He's the ambassador for all other manatees," Ott said. "We are able to learn things about manatee through Snooty."
Snooty's birthday party attracted new faces from outside of Bradenton. Ann Frye, of Tampa, had never seen Snooty before.
"I think it's quite remarkable Snooty is 66, but then again I don't know what their life span is," Frye said. said. (Answer: Only about half of manatees in the wild are expected to survive into their early 20s, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.)
One of the best parts of the experience was getting to learn all about manatees during the presentation at Snooty's tank, Frye said.
Her sister, Cheryl Royal, of Pinellas Park, was also visiting Snooty for the first time.
"I've heard about it before, but I've never come," Royal said. "When we heard it was his birthday this week, we decided to come for his birthday party and help celebrate."
It was like your typical birthday party full of food, games, music and loads of activities. Jeanette Leff took a moment to sit and take a breather while her husband and two grandchildren explored the museum.
"Every year they come, and as they get older they observe different things," Leff said. "It's interesting to watch."
For five years she and her husband have been coming from South Pasadena in Pinellas County to bring their grandchildren to the museum, she said. Sometimes the couple comes by themselves.
"One of the girls said, 'We have to come and wish him a happy birthday so he can see how big we got,' " Leff said.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.