CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. – The Florida Manatee Festival brings thousands of people from all over the country to downtown Crystal River.

What You Need To Know

  • Florida Manatee Festival underway in Crystal River

  • The festival brings thousands of people from across the country

  • Machael and Michael Ziegler came all the way from Ohio

​The festival, normally slated for January each year, was pushed back to this weekend due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Machael and Micheal Ziegler packed their bags and car bright and early Friday morning.

"14 hours and seven minutes,” Ziegler said. 

From the Champion City, down the Bluegrass State past Georgia until they reached the Sunshine State, it was a long drive, but with a purpose—manatees.

Macheal told Spectrum News’ Katya Guillaume, “They are like my spirit animal,” and so she said her and husband Michael said why not come to the Manatee capital of the world.

“I was actually fasting from Facebook and just happened to glance one day and saw the festival Facebook page went live,” Machael said.  “And I thought let me check this out and they said ‘where are you from’ and I said Springfield Ohio and I won. So here we are.” 

The Florida Manatee festival brings thousands of people to small city Crystal River.

“This festival is so great because everyone loves the manatees they are the golden retriever of the water,” said Jade White with the Chamber of Commerce.

She also mentioned that this festival is usually held on MLK weekend.

“Expected to go back to January next year,” she said. "Things weren’t quite where we needed them to be as far as statistics went this year in January so we postponed it.” 

January or March, the two-day event also allows nonprofits to showcase their craft. 

While this time of year it’s a hit or miss to see the manatees in action, the Zieglers say being present was still worth the almost 15-hour drive.

“It’s been a lot of fun. People are really friendly, a lot of great things to see,” Michael Ziegler said.

“They are talking about 20s maybe 30 this week so we’re going to be down here enjoying the warm weather getting a break after being cooped up for so long.”