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Date of Issue: June 29, 2006

First Coquina Beach outdoor festival a success

On top of the kayak demonstrations and seminars, there was plenty to do - eat, drink and shop - with individual vendors and food stands catering to family enjoyment.

Coquina Beach was host site to the first annual Florida Gulf Coast Sports Commission Outdoor Festival June 24 with some 2,000 folks in attendance throughout the day.

 One of the event’s coordinators, Jef Germain, did not expect there to be such a great turnout since the event was the first of its kind here.

Throughout the day, anyone could take out one of 60 kayaks to try for free, attend clinics ranging from kayak fishing to paddling techniques, take a guided water tour by Leffis Key or just relax and enjoy the great food and shopping available from the numerous vendors.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary was present in full force as well, as the public boat launching ramp on the bayside was closed and the "no wake zone" was extended for the day due to the mass amounts of kayakers and canoes.

There were numerous seminars going on throughout the day, including information on basic kayaking techniques, secret camping spots on the Manatee River and how to pack your kayak and use it for fishing.

A main event for the day was the Paddle for Paradise, where kayakers were asked to paddle into the water all at once for a photo opportunity. The prime purpose though, according to Germain was, "To raise awareness of the need for safe, improved access points and facilities for paddle sports throughout Florida."

Also at the festival were food vendors with everything from smoked mullet to shaved ice, kayaks for sale and two up for raffle, along with exhibits from Mote Marine Aquarium, the South Florida Museum and the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch.

Manatee County Parks and Recreation and the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted this family-oriented event.

The county sponsored a radio commercial which was aired from Jacksonville all the way down to Miami to advertise the event.

Germain said, "We wanted to have something to attract all different kinds of people, especially families." The goal is also to have it occur yearly, in June, and for it to become an event that the locals and tourists can look forward to every year.