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For immediate release - September 27, 2005

Festival to ‘bear’ the truth about Lake County’s natural resources, wildlife

LAKE COUNTY, FLA — The Florida Black Bear will once again take center stage for the Seventh Annual Florida Black Bear Festival scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Cadwell Park, located at 4 Cassady St., Umatilla.

Florida Black Bear Festival

Amidst the fun and games, the event aims to spread information about how residents can protect the natural habitats of the Florida Black Bear and other wildlife. The one-day educational event is fun for all ages as thousands of Floridians and guests are expected to attend the bash in honor of the black bear.

“We’re returning to our basics this year,” said Sherre Dabanian, festival coordinator. “We’re going back and concentrating on the role of the Florida Black Bear.”

The free event features a star-studded line up of musicians, environmentalists and authors. This unique festival also boasts wildlife experiences, special children's activities, tours of the Ocala National Forest, educational opportunities and traditional Southern entertainment and food. Event schedule for the festival includes:

9 a.m. Blackwater Creek
10 a.m. Ken Skeens & Leigh Goldsmith
11 a.m. Live Animal Encounter provided by the Central Florida Zoological Park
12 p.m. Blackwater Creek
1 p.m. Live Animal Encounter provided by the Central Florida Zoological Park
2 p.m. Ken Skeens & Leigh Goldsmith

9:45 a.m. Sally Settle Barrow — "In The Shadow of the Lone Cypress"
11:15 a.m. Ted Morris — "Florida's Lost Tribes"
12:30 p.m. - Frederic M. Hitt — "Wekiva Winter"

9:30 a.m. Wendy Poag — "Wildflowers of North Lake County"
10:30 a.m. Andrea M Boliek, Wildlife Biologist for the Florida Wildlife Commission, — "Living in Bear Country"
12 p.m. Dr Tom Hoctor — "Connecting Florida Black Bear Populations — The Florida Ecological Greenways Network"
2 p.m. Mike Owen, Department of Environmental Protection Biologist — "Unique Ecosystems of the Everglades"

The Florida Black Bear Festival knows all about hurricanes. Last year the festival had to be postponed due to the three powerful storms that severely impacted Central Florida. To assist the Gulf Coast region affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita this year, the Leesburg Food Bank will be collecting nonperishable foods and basic toiletries at the festival and event-goers will also be encouraged to donate blood to the Central Florida Blood Center’s Bloodmobile.

“So you can come have fun at the Florida Black Bear Festival while dropping off canned goods and donating blood,” Dabanian said. “This is definitely a family event. That’s why we have such a wide variety of things to do.”

According to event organizers, the idea behind the festival is to celebrate the natural resources of Lake County. The Florida Black Bear is an ambassador for all the wonderful natural resources of Lake County, Dabanian said. Through education programs at the festival, the public is encouraged to preserve natural resources while learning how to maintain healthy bear habitats, which can benefit other Florida plants and animals.

“As more people have become interested in nature and wildlife, we’ve seen this festival grow,” Dabanian said. “The black bear has really become the ambassador species of natural resources in the region, and more people are experiencing personal encounters with the animal because of rapid growth and changing ecosystems. There’s not a better way to increase awareness of the black bear and our natural resources than through a family fun event that is truly like no other.”

The festival offers presentations by well-known naturalists, bear experts and authors. With all these educational events perhaps the best opportunity to learn more about the Florida Black Bear is to visit the powerful and grizzly animals in their own backyard.

During the festival, the U.S. Forest Service conducts free three-hour field trips by bus into the Ocala National Forest's bear habitat. Participants will learn about bear biology, ecology and management. Individuals may register for the trips at the start of the festival, but slots fill up early, so sign-up as soon as possible. Field trips times by the U.S. Forestry Service into the Ocala National Forest bear country are 9:30 a.m., 10:30, 11:30, 12:30 p.m., and 1:30.

For more information about the Seventh Annual Black Bear Festival, call (407) 323-1298, e-mail info@flblackbearfest.org or log on to www.flblackbearfest.org.


Contact information:
Christopher Patton
Communications Coordinator
Office: (352) 343-9609; Cell: (352) 455-0445

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