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'Manatees' at auction

Artists' endangered replicas are going for a good cause.

By Mary Jane Park
Published November 12, 2006


The artsy manatees that have been scattered throughout the Tampa International Airport are no more.

Gone are the sea cows painted to resemble players for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Vanished: Geary Taylor's "Jamanatee," a Rasta interpretation, and Jules Burt's "Ms. Manatee," a lipsticked, bejeweled and gowned version.

But fear not, because even as the government grapples with whether to label the live gentle giants as "threatened" or "endangered," the fiberglass versions are nowhere near extinct.

Almost 50 of them have been displayed throughout the Tampa Bay area for the past couple of years. They will move to St. Pete Beach this weekend, where, for the right price, you can have one of your very own.

Top bidders at Saturday's Manatee Menagerie Live Auction, to be held at the Sirata Beach Resort & Conference Center in St. Pete Beach, will give them new habitats.

With singer Jimmy Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band performing in Tampa on Thursday, the event was timed so that Buffett's mates could perform (as Club Trini) at a fundraiser for the Outdoor Arts Foundation and the Save the Manatee Club. Also on stage: Tom Gribbin and the Saltwater Band.

The foundation raises money for all sorts of good causes, partnering with other nonprofits.

Through sponsorships and donations, its painted chairs, turtles, dog houses and other projects have benefited charities such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.

Buffett and Bob Graham, who was Florida's governor at the time, organized the Save the Manatee Club in 1981 to raise awareness about the gentle giants and help protect them.

There's no reason to think that Buffett will make a cameo appearance to celebrate the club's 25th anniversary, but you never know.

Dress is decidedly casual. Tickets are available on several levels: You can pony up for the entire evening, which includes appetizers, auction and concert; or pay to attend the concert only.

[Last modified November 11, 2006, 19:57:34]

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