As fall settles in, the Florida black bear begins foraging for winter. It’s a perfect time for folks in the Big Bend to celebrate the state’s largest land mammal.
Come out for the 4th annual Forgotten Coast Black Bear Festival in Carrabelle on Saturday, Oct. 6. The event is dedicated to helping people understand and live in harmony with the Florida black bear.
The free, family-oriented festival is from 10 a.m.to 4 p.m. at Sands Park. Families can spend the day together doing something fun and educational at the same time.
Carrabelle sits in Franklin County, the heart of the Apalachicola National Forest – one of the state’s largest undeveloped public lands with habitat suitable for black bears.
“Helping people understand bear behavior has always been one of the primary goals for the festival,” said David Telesco, bear management program coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
“If people who live in bear country understand what makes bears tick, they will know what they can do to discourage bears from causing problems around their homes and communities.”
As the festival continues to grow, so does its scope of programs, tours, exhibits and kids’ activities.
Telesco will offer presentations about bear biology, radio collaring and tracking bears. Defenders of Wildlife’s Laurie Macdonald will take the stage to discuss living with Florida wildlife.
Other activities include a vehicle tour into bear habitat with Adam Warwick, an FWC biologist who rescued a drowning black bear in 2008, and a new walking tour exploring wildflowers blooming in Tate’s Hell State Forest. Michael Jenkins, a Florida Forest Service plant conservation biologist, will lead the walk, which includes a visit to an ancient sand dune/coastal scrub habitat unique to the Gulf coast of the Panhandle.
For the kids (and adults) there’s a promise of fun educational and environmental learning, with exhibits about native flora and fauna, area archeology and marine sciences. Bring your little ones to the “Come Be a Bear” activity and watch them transform into a black bear and learn about the life of a bear through the seasons. They can also act like one of many Florida animals at the “Animal Olympics,” make bear headbands and bear paw prints at the free arts and crafts table, and learn how to cast a fishing rod at “Backyard Bass.”
Visit the storytelling tent where you can sit on hay bales and enjoy readings by local authors, such as Evelyn Gilmer (“Maggie the Beagle with a Broken Tail” and “Maggie the Beagle with a Broken Tail and the Baby Sea Turtles”), Faith Eidse (“Voices of Apalachicola”), Carol Hair Moore (“Ruby Kate’s Scrumptious Tea Cake Party”) and Richard Edward Noble (“The Hobo Philosopher”).
Local acoustic musicians will also share their talents during open mike at the story-telling tent.
Music at the main stage features Americana and folk musician Brian Bowen. Rounding out the afternoon, you can listen, sing and dance to music by local southern rock band King Cotton. And don’t forget to check out the food vendors and exhibitors.
Festival-goers will learn everything they always wanted to know about the Florida black bear during this one-day event, so be sure to come out and enjoy learning about the amazing Florida black bear.
The festival is presented by the FWC, U.S. Forest Service, Florida Forest Service, city of Carrabelle, Franklin County Tourist Development Council and Defenders of Wildlife. For more information about the Forgotten Coast Black Bear Festival, visit www.mycarrabelle.com/ or call festival coordinator Allen Loyd at 727-823-3888.
Image courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission