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Festival is 'a good one,' visitors say

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2003

CRYSTAL RIVER -- License plates along U.S. 19 revealed they hailed from the Midwest, Georgia and as far north as Maine.

There were the vacationers, like David and Barbara Ambrose from Ogunquit, Maine, who walked between the booths of crafts shortly after the 10 a.m. start of the 17th annual Florida Manatee Festival on Saturday.

Their friends in Citrus Hills told them about the event and told them "we should come down," David Ambrose said.

They're staying a week, and they're not rushing back home, where there's 40 inches of snow. "We wish we were staying longer," said Barbara Ambrose, holding a bag of kettle corn.

At the festival, there also were snowbirds like Gloria and Dave Scalise of Minnesota, who are living in Beverly Hills for the winter. This was their second time at the festival, and they plan to make a habit of it. "I would definitely come," Gloria Scalise said.

And then there were locals who make the festival a yearly ritual.

"This is a good one," said Evelyn Harmin of Crystal River, who attended with her husband, Lou.

Evelyn Harmin says every year's festival is nicer than previous ones, and there are more and new crafts to look at. She said the event gives her an opportunity to see her neighbors and support local artists. But for Lou, the food is an attraction.

For Inverness resident Pattie Pullen, the entertainment brings her back every year.

Regardless of hometown or reason the Manatee Festival attracted them to downtown Crystal River Saturday morning, all seemed impressed by what they saw and seemed glad to have something to do on a nice, sunny day.

"Isn't that pretty?" said one woman, admiring embroidery on a white sweat shirt. "It's gorgeous," agreed one of her companions.

Streets from Citrus Avenue to NW Second Avenue were closed to make room for artists and craft vendors who displayed their work in booths.

Among items for sale were photographs and pictures of local wildlife and nature scenes, natural rock oil lamps, pottery, seasonings, clothing and jewelry.

Kids got their faces painted and adults zigzagged from booth to booth. Stroll now, take a boat ride later, many had planned.

Food vendors yelled "hot grouper!" and "polish sausage!" and handed out samples to people deciding what to eat.

"People come from all over for this," Evelyn Harmin said.

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