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Let the parrot in your head fly free

Now you can put those embarrassing moments of karaoke to good use: Check out the Jimmy Buffett sound-alike contest, one of the highlights of this weekend's Florida Manatee Festival in Crystal River.

By JORGE SANCHEZ, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 10, 2003

Nearly everyone in Florida has probably done it. Come on now, 'fess up: Surely you've sung a line or two of a Jimmy Buffett tune. And hey, you probably thought you sounded pretty good.

Wastin' away again in Margaritaville/ searchin' for my lost shaker of salt/ some people claim that there's a wooo-man to blame/ but I know ... it's my own damn fault.

If the Parrothead in you clamors to fly high and free, then head over to the gazebo and listen to some Buffett wanna-bes as they put on some beach clothes and try to impress the judges during Saturday's "Sounds Like Buffett To Me" song contest, part of the activities at the Florida Manatee Festival.

I blew out my flip-flop/stepped on a pop top/cut my heel had to cruise on back home ...

The Buffett sound-alike contest is one of the high points of the Florida Manatee Festival. The scene at the gazebo resembles a gathering of Parrotheads, as Jimmy Buffett fans are called. The crowd is awash in tropical colors, crazy hats and costumes, resembling an actual Buffett concert.

They sing along with the well-known lyrics, wave their arms back and forth during Fins and simply go nuts during Margaritaville.

The top prize for the contest is a vacation in Flagler Beach. The contest begins at 2 p.m. Saturday and the gazebo hosts live entertainment both days.

But even if you're not a Son of a Son of a Sailor, you can cheer along with the crowd at the Buffett contest, and then venture off to find some of the festival's other fun activities.

The St. Petersburg Times sponsors a juried fine arts show. Cash and ribbons are awarded to the winning artists. About 70 fine artists are scheduled to attend. The fine artists can be found on Citrus Avenue.

More than 170 craft vendors will also be exhibiting their works at the festival.

The main emphasis will likely be on wildlife art, but also expect to find many booths offering handmade jewelry, wood carvings and all types of paintings and sculpture.

The Florida Manatee Festival food menu features offerings from about 30 vendors. Among these will be seafood platters at the Shrimp Shack and Crabbie's Crab Trap, along with barbecue, Philly cheese steaks and other subs, Greek food, hamburgers, hot dogs and pita wraps. Other vendors will sell pizza, espresso, turkey legs, smoothies and kettle corn.

Approximately 14,000 people went to the festival last year, and many of them also went on the boat tours of Kings Bay. Pontoon boats operated by local dive companies will take people of a 45-minute tour of the bay. The guides' local knowledge usually results in a manatee sighting.

Tickets for the boat ride will be sold at the Chamber of Commerce information booth at the festival. Tickets are $3 for adults and $1 for 12- to 18-year-olds. Children younger than 12 may ride free.

The boats depart from Crystal River Manatee Dive and Tour at 267 NW Third St. A bus service will take people from the festival site to the boat dock. The buses will leave from the parking lot of the First Baptist Church.

-- Jorge Sanchez can be reached at 860-7313 or .

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At a glance: The Florida Manatee Festival will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday in downtown Crystal River. Free parking and shuttle bus rides at Crystal River Mall. Admission to the festival is $2. Boat tours of Kings Bay are $3 for adults, $1 for children. Check out the official Florida Manatee Festival guide in today's St. Petersburg Times for full festival details.

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