The Forgotten Coast Sea Turtle Festival arrives for its fourth annual edition on Sunday at George Core Park in Port St. Joe.
And there is plenty to be festive about.
Although the 2019 turtle nesting season is still in its early stages, nest numbers are up around the state, according to a report from the state’s national estuarine research reserves.
St. Joseph Peninsula is tracking above last year’s totals despite the loss of habitat due to Hurricane Michael.
And on a more personal note for the Florida Coastal Conservancy, which hosts the festival, there is celebration in a new, larger location on 10th Street and the completion of a sea turtle statute on Village Drive in Marina Cove.
The statute will be something of a talisman for this year’s festival, which will be held 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
The first festival served to kickoff the fundraising campaign to create and install the Sea Turtle Statute, completed by Monumental Fabrication.
The statute, ultimately to be a fountain, and the festival align with the mission of the FCC, the non-profit arm of the St. Joseph Peninsula Turtle Patrol.
“This is an education and awareness event,” said Jessica Swindall with the FCC and volunteer coordinator for the St. Joseph Peninsula Turtle Patrol.
“We want everybody to understand we all have a part to play in protecting turtles and the environment. While we are out at the beach we need to remember to be mindful there are other critters out there doing important work.”
And, that provides another reason to celebrate sea turtles this year.
The peninsula has seen nest numbers similar to 2016 when the peninsula had well over 200 turtle nests.
As of the first of the month, the turtle patrol volunteers also began relocating nests found within the boundaries of a beach nourishment project slated for August.
“They are sometimes in weird places because there are no dunes, but we are beating 2016 numbers,” Swindall said. “It’s a bumper crop so far so that’s another reason to celebrate.”
This year’s festival will include live music from Rick Wilson, Country Outlaw from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. ET and the Common ‘Taters and the Turn-ups from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET.
Gulf Specimen Lab will have their Sea Mobile with touch tanks for the kids and there will be turtle talks, educational displays, arts and crafts, activities for the kids and giveaways, Swindall said.
The festival is free to attendees and all proceeds benefit the Forgotten Coast Sea Turtle Center.
And as demonstrated last year, when rain fell all day but did not dampen attendance, the festival will go off rain or shine.