A confident manatee gives viewers a full body shot at the Manatee Viewing Center.

Temperatures have dropped several degrees this winter, not unheard of for the Tampa Bay area, but certainly unusual, to be concerned about wind chills, layering and red nose tips. Manatees couldn’t agree more. Once water temperature hits 68 degrees, what Wendy Anastasiou, manatee viewing center’s (MVC) environmental specialist, called the “magic temperature,” manatees search for warm water harbors like TECO’s Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach.
Opening its 25th season in November, the consistent December chill has delivered to MVC a spectacular demonstration of manatees, which can be seen peeking noses out, flashing their backs and waving tails. Common sense understands they are just wading in the warmth of the discharge canal but the abundant number, seen coupled together, in groups and even stealing the show individually, can create the illusion of a staged performance.
That is not all MVC’s 2010-2011 season is offering. This past summer several changes have enhanced the viewing experience. The gift shop has doubled its space; a new butterfly garden, courtesy of an Eagle Scout project by local resident, Jacob Parker, landscaping architecture, donated by Sharon Heal Eichler of Wade Trim in Tampa; solar panels, the largest solar array project in the area, can be seen in the parking lot; and the education building has upgraded the mangrove exhibit, which is now equipped with educational touch screen games like mangrove exploration and a matching card game, courtesy of Hewlett-Packard.
Stella Bailes, a Riverview resident and nanny, brings the children she cares for as often as she can, “We come every time the weather is bad.” She nannies for two children, one almost 4 years old. They have been coming on a consistent basis since the child was 5-and-a-half weeks old.
MVC will be celebrating its 25th anniversary on Saturday and Sunday, January 15 and 16. The celebration will take place between 9 a.m-5 p.m. Radio Disney will be there live from 12 Noon-2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday. Arts and crafts with face painting will be available as well as free popcorn for all in attendance.
For more information visit www.tampaelectric.com/manatee/ or call 228-4289. MVC, with free parking and admission, is located at 6990 Dickman Rd. in Apollo Beach. The viewing hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily.

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