Getting back to nature with a monster party in the swamp
By LOGAN NEILL
Published March 3, 2007
WEEKI WACHEE - Whether it's the moss and palmetto-covered lagoon creatures vying for honor of best "Swamp Monster," or the slithering critters found on display at the many nature exhibits, things have been known to get a little wild at the Weeki Wachee Swamp Fest.
The event, which celebrates the laid-back, nature-conscious lifestyle this close-knit community embraces, kicks off at 9 a.m. today and runs through Sunday afternoon at Linda Pederson Park at Jenkins Creek. According to festival organizer Don Fish, everything is aimed at providing a good time.
"We look forward to seeing the faces we've gotten to know through the years," said Fish. "In a way, it's like a family reunion."
Indeed, the festival has an unapologetically old-fashioned feel to it, with live wildlife demonstrations, bluegrass bands, tap dancing and arts and crafts. Food vendors hawk a variety of swamp cuisine, such as swamp cabbage soup and fried alligator tail.
And of course, there's the ever-popular "Swamp Monster costume contest," which beckons folks to deck themselves in all manner of homemade costumes.
"It's very family-oriented," said Fish. "There's something here for everyone."
Now in its 14th year, the festival was first brought to life as a way for the Weeki Wachee Area Club to raise money for its clubhouse. The membership turned to longtime resident Don Deedrick, who suggested staging a one-day flea market, in the back of a local campground, with entertainment, arts and crafts and food vendors.
"It wasn't much more than a little community party that was held in a parking lot," said Fish, who attended the inaugural event.
Despite the fact that no admission is charged proceeds from vendor spaces, T-shirt and merchandise sales and other donations, enables the club to contribute more than $15,000 each year to Weeki Wachee crime watch, Hernando Environmental Land Protectors and other local groups.
"Thanks to the generosity of a lot of volunteers and the support of the community, it's been a heck of a success, and getting better all the time."
Fish thinks the mix of good-time activities along with an environmentally conscious theme appeals to grownups and children alike.
In addition to the food, music and vendors, the organizers always invite environmental groups, such as Hernando Audubon Society and Florida Native Plant Society to set up information booths on the grounds.
Fish says that recent improvements at Linda Pederson Park promise to make entering and exiting the festival much easier. As parking is somewhat limited at the park, he advises visitors to consider parking in one of several off-site lots and taking the free shuttle.
Saturday's entertainment will include Eddie McConnell, Don E. and Fred, Gary "The Manatee Man" Pane, Klassic Kountry Kloggers, Tami Sue Corradine, The Slyder Band, Step Sisters, Brooksville Dance Academy and the Turner Creek Band.
Entertainment for Sunday will include the Turner Creek Band, Beth Olson, John Bostic, Lynn Poindexter and Annie Riley.Logan Neill can be reached at 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
The 14th annual Weeki Wachee Swamp Fest will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Linda Pederson Park, west of Rogers Park on Shoal Line Boulevard. The event and parking are free. Call 596-2567 for information.