Thousands of children and adults sang “Happy Birthday” on Saturday to their favorite 68-year-old manatee, Snooty.
And then there was cake — not a typical birthday cake — but one made to please a manatee.
“Understand that Snooty’s birthday cake is different than what we think of a birthday cake. For him it’s Brussels sprouts, carrots, a little bit of pineapple and strawberries,” said Marilyn Margold, director of living collections. “He’s thoroughly enjoyed all of those items so he’s a happy boy right now.”
The large crowd gathered in the upper viewing area of the pool of the Parker Aquarium in the South Florida Museum at noon Saturday to watch Snooty eat his cake.
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The crowd seemed as large and enthusiastic as last year, which brought in about 4,000 people. Museum employees were unable to immediately gauge this year’s crowd estimate.
What’s a birthday without birthday cards? To make it more of a celebration, children competed for who could compose the best birthday card.
Taking away the grand prize with a birthday card she made for Snooty: 9-year-old Molly Patton. Her card featured manatees and a cake, of course, Molly said.
Molly, a soon-to-be fourth-grader at Mills Elementary, was all smiles as she held two large gift bags filled with loot, including a large stuffed Snooty.
“I already have two Snootys, so I’m probably going to name him something else,” Molly said.
Molly loves Snooty, she said.
“I just think it’s really cool that he’s the oldest manatee in captivity,” Molly said.
It wasn’t her first time entering the contest, said she and her mother, Whitney Patton.
“She’s done a card two or three times. She won second place in kindergarten,” the mother said proudly. “But this is a big, awesome surprise.”
Snooty, a longtime Bradenton favorite for children, gained world fame in June 2015 when he was officially named the oldest manatee in captivity by Guinness World Records.
Sharing his pool and in the attention were Ice Cube and Sarasolo, two 3-year-old rehabbing manatees the museum plans on releasing in early 2017. Over the years, Snooty has shared his pool with 30 manatees.
“We’ve had a great time at Snooty’s 68th birthday bash and wildlife festival,” museum communications manager Jessica Schubick said. “We had lots of visitors, playing games and visiting our exhibitors and seeing Snooty, who has had a great day.”
Sisters Aliya, Hailey and Ava Barnett, 10, 8 and 7, respectively, were jumping with excitement to be at Snooty’s birthday party for the first time. The girls had only seen Snooty on school field trips in the past.
“I like it,” Hailie said.
Her sister, Ava, quickly jumping in: “I love it!”
Aliya was busy taking photos as they made their way around the rest of the museum.
“When I came here before I only got to see Snooty,” Aliya said. “It’s really neat.”