Manatee Festival returns

Original article

The Florida Manatee Festival returns to downtown Crystal River on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 13 and 14. Produced by the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Crystal River Rotary, the festival is presented by Suncoast Credit Union.

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The 2018 festival — the 31st — will feature many attractions from previous years, along with some new ones.

The tiny house movement has been taking the nation by storm over the past few years as many people seek to live more simply, affordably and with a smaller ecological footprint. The Florida Manatee Festival will have several tiny houses — ones that people are actually living in — on display around and behind Heritage Village on North Citrus Avenue.

Also new around Heritage Village is a Vintage Fair with vintage goods, as well as demonstrations of vintage chic painting and stained-glass techniques.

Returning again are the free shuttles and entry to Three Sisters Springs from the festival, sponsored by the Friends of Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Visitors can view manatees from the boardwalk surrounding the springs and wander the new wetlands area that has become home to hundreds of migrating birds.

For those who would prefer to see manatees and birds from King’s Bay, for a nominal fee, attendees may take a half-hour boat ride around the bay that leaves from the waterfront park at the south end of downtown.

Musical entertainment will be ongoing both days from two stages. The Main Stage at King’s Bay Park will feature the JoJo Jones Band on Saturday, followed by headliner Heavy Petty, a popular Tom Petty tribute band from Gainesville. Sunday’s entertainment will feature Barefoot Bob and The Hope from St. Petersburg.

The Gazebo Acoustic Stage at Little Springs Park is the location for mellow listening. On Saturday, Madi Carr, a young Crystal River native now living in Jacksonville, will return to her roots with folk-rock originals and cover tunes. Later Saturday, Jeff Jarrett takes the stage with a mix of today’s hits and yesterday’s favorites. On Sunday, O-Sky, a 15-year-old singer/songwriter from Orlando, whose songs reflect a positive message, will perform. The afternoon will feature Captain Key Lime, mixing it up with songs from Jimmy Buffett to the Beatles with some favorite country tunes woven into the mix.

There will be more than 200 fine art, craft, commercial and nonprofit vendors on the streets north and south of downtown. Kidz Zone will dominate the corner of U.S. 19 and Citrus Avenue with inflatables, costumed characters, face painting and more.

And of course, there will be food, along with beer and wine gardens, near both music stages and throughout the festival.

For more information, go to,, or call 352-795-3149.

Hours for the 31st Annual Florida Manatee Festival are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 14.

The cost is $5 per person, with those age 12 and younger free.

The festival is in downtown Crystal River, at the intersection of Citrus Avenue and U.S. 19, and stretches up through the shops and restaurants of Heritage Village and surrounding areas, as well as down to the waterside area along King’s Bay.

Free parking is available at the Crystal River Mall, 1801 NW U.S. 19 (approximately 1 mile north of the event) with free shuttle buses to the event. There is limited street and handicap parking available.

Local boat captains will offer boat tours on a first-come basis. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children 6–12 years old and free for children 5 and younger. The tickets are good only on the date purchased and are sold at the boat dock area near Northwest Third Street (Kings Bay Park).

Free shuttles will transport visitors to Three Sisters Springs from the bus stop on Northeast Fifth Street.