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NEWS BRIEFS Sarasota Bay Water Festival site manager Bryan Moore poses with volunteers Kathy Harmon, Alice Sciarrino, Christine Sciarrino and Rina Avellaneda. Photo by Pia Cormier Tents line Ken Thompson Park for the first Sarasota Bay Water Festival on Nov. 17. Photo by Nor- man Schimmel THOUSANDS ATTEND INAUGURAL SARASOTA BAY WATER FESTIVAL More than 3,000 residents and visitors attend- ed the inaugural Sarasota Bay Water Festival on Saturday at Ken Thompson Park, organiz- ers reported. The purpose of the unique festival was to cel- ebrate the importance of Sarasota Bay to the region's environment and economy, a press release notes. More than 200 residents used the free water taxi that ran from Marina Jack in downtown Sarasota to the dock at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron. Freedom Boat Club, one of the 45 sponsors of the water festival, donated two boats commanded by Coast Guard-certified captains, the release says. Seventy groups from private industry, local government and the nonprofit sector pre- sented exhibits and activities that promoted recreation, creative arts, conservation and ed- ucation related to the Sarasota Bay estuary system, the press release adds. "The festival was an opportunity to remind residents and elected representatives how im- portant Sarasota Bay is to our region," said Randy Moore, the festival director and owner of Triple 3 Marketing (T3M). "Sarasota Bay is not only beautiful, it's also a major economic engine benefiting tourism, real estate, com- mercial and recreational fishing, recreational boating and much more." The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) was the host sponsor; T3M managed the event with volunteer support from residents of Sara- sota and Manatee counties. SBEP is one of America's 28 national estuary programs and a catalyst for the ongoing restoration of Sara- sota Bay.

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