Celebrate The Gulf Returns To The Pass

Kids who stopped by Celebrate the Gulf explored marine life through hands-on fun. Some picked up a crabs.  Others fancied petting snakes.  But no matter what they touched, the kids say they walked away knowing something they didn't know before they stopped by.

"I learned the horseshoe crab was related to spiders and scorpions," says Rayne Ward, young festival goer.

"I didn't know the hermit crab eats the moon shell snail and lives inside its own shell," says Alex Polk, young festival goer.

"I held one of the snakes, and it tickled me on my arm with its tongue," says Jayden White, young festival goer.

"We're all about trying to get the kids engaged and get them excited about the marine environment," says Jennifer Buchanan, event co-organizer.

Some of the kids were very excited as they crawled through a turtle excluder device. It was a simulation showing kids how sea turtles escape from shrimping nets to avoid dying. It is an important device, because sea turtles can not breath for long periods of time out of water and would likely die from being caught in the net.

Parents say the festival's entertaining, hands-on approach teaches kids life-long lessons.

"As my children have gotten older it's more important to reiterate what our resources are how to protect them and what we can do as conservationist to preserve the Gulf of Mexico and our food source," says Riley Norman, parent.

But, coast creatures weren't the only ones to make an appearance. Stick bugs native to Australia and the goliath beetle, the largest beetle in the world found in Africa, were also on display for people to reach out and touch

If kids needed a little break from all the hands-on exploring, there was plenty of playground fun and reading materials to keep them busy.

With all this year's festival had to offer, Alex Polk, a young festival goer, needed only a few words to sum it up.

"It was pretty awesome," Polk says.