Reef Festival celebrates "Spirit of the Sea"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 21            June 5, 2003

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Children enjoy the touch tank

An impressive amount of support was shown for Belize's marine environment last Sunday. Island residents and visitors packed Boca del Rio Park to celebrate the Seventh Annual Reef Festival, sponsored by Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Green Reef Environmental Institute. This event marked the fantastic finale of conservational and educational activities held during Reef Week (May 29th - June 1st). 

    The future of Belize's natural resources will indeed be secure if left in the capable hands of the school children from Lydia's Institute of Fine Education (LIFE) and Little Angels Pre-School. These students created many artistic posters, poems and displays that depicted the 2003 Reef Week theme: "Spirit of the Sea". The winning display, made by LIFE's Standard II students, showed the contrast between a well-protected, vibrant living reef filled with brilliant hues, and a colorless, dying reef suffering from the effects of unhealthy environmental practices. The prize-winning poems, created by Standard V and VI students of LIFE, urged everyone to take careful measures to preserve the natural assets found in "our turquoise friend" the sea, that is "always there for you and me." Little Angels Pre-Schoolers were awarded 1st place for their participation. Each of the students designed a poster that portrayed their favorite reef creature, and together the children hand-painted a banner depicting the "Spirit of the Reef".

    An abundant collection of marine life was found in the festival's "touch tank," always the children's favorite attraction. Starfish, sea urchins and lobsters were just a few of the marine animals gathered this year by Omero Graniel, Ricardo Acosta, and Bert van der Klis. The "Touch Tank" offered many festival attendees their first  "hands-on" experience with these fascinating creatures that inhabit the barrier reef.

   Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve and National Park staff also provided a wealth of educational material. Games such as a watermelon-eating contest, musical chairs, a greasy watermelon water race and other fun activities entertained visitors of all ages. Green Reef Environmental Educator Dilci Patt's manatee presentation included a dancing manatee, which enjoyed some lively moves with several fun-loving festival-goers.

    Through this medium, the Reef Festival Committee would like to thank the following people and sponsors: Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Green Reef Environmental Institute, Area Representative Manuel Heredia Jr., Mayoress Elsa Paz, the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) and SPTC workers, Caribeña Enterprises, The San Pedro Sun, Tropic Air, Ali Graphics Ltd., San Pedro Distributors, the San Pedro Lions Club, PepperOni's Pizza, Omar Arceo, Nasa Caliz, David Marin, Reef Radio, Miki Kim, Baldemar Graniel, Patrick Jordan, Gijsbert van der Klis, Jillian Piggott, Robyn Woodman, volunteers, participants and everyone who contributed to the success of this year's festival.

    On behalf of all coastal communities, The San Pedro Sun gives a big "thumbs up" to all the organizers of Reef Week activities, and for all efforts to enhance awareness of the importance of the fragile ecosystem that makes up our country's main attractions - the natural resources found in Belize's barrier reef and coastal waters.
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