Originally created 09/25/01

CoastFest will feature shark show



BRUNSWICK, Ga. - A live shark exhibit will highlight CoastFest 2001's environmental awareness and education displays next month at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources headquarters in Brunswick.

The annual event - set for Oct. 6 - is the largest natural resources festival in Georgia and attracts thousands of visitors from throughout the state and northeast Florida, said officials with the department's Coastal Resources Division, which plays host for the ecological festival.

"This year's CoastFest will be the biggest and best ever," said Stuart Stevens, the department chief of ecological services. "Our exhibitors have increased by one-third and include some exciting hands-on activities. People can learn while having fun."

At least 87 exhibits - ranging from the live shark display to a reptile relocator, a mobile aquarium, touch tanks filled with live fish and crabs, and a U.S. Coast Guard robot - are to be displayed, department spokeswoman Lea King said.

WeeBee, a 70-foot replica of a northern right whale, also will be featured, she said.

"Last year, more than 4,000 people attended the festival, and we're expecting at least that many this year," Ms. King said.

The festival is designed to educate and help people develop an appreciation for the unique coastal Georgia ecosystem that is home to a variety of threatened or endangered species, including five species of sea turtles, the northern right whale, eagles and alligators, she said.

"We're going to have a live baby shark and a biologist on hand for a public awareness program explaining the behavior and habitat of sharks. The exhibit will be about shark facts and fiction. These creatures are very important to the environment," said Ms. King, adding that sharks have gotten a bad reputation because of well-publicized attacks off the Florida coast.

Visitors also will have a chance to get up close and personal with snakes and other reptiles brought by Tim Lane, an area herpetologist who captures and relocates the critters when they run afoul of people.

The Coast Guard will showcase Coastie, the robotic boat it uses to teach children and others about boating safety.

There also will be watercraft and research vessels from the Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and the natural resources department available for tours.

Ms. King said there will be a variety of hands-on activities, including building birdhouses, walking through a replica of natural bird habitat, making jellyfish and painting decorative sea animal tiles.