We took a detour on the way to Orlando, FL for one of Dean's conferences and stopped in Clearwater, FL for two days. Although we were able to meet up with one of Dean's mission companions and his family (thank you, Ciccarello's) our main goal in Clearwater was to see Winter and Hope. Two dolphins from the movie Dolphin Tale 2. We stopped in at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium just after they opened on Monday morning.
Note to self: A monday morning in October is the PERFECT time to visit. We had the place to ourselves.
My boys were less than thrilled when I kept stopping them for pictures.
Learning about sea turtles
Fun fact...Harold, the sea turtle below, actually played the role of "Mavis" in the movie.
A sea urchin...
Ben, showing off his shark teeth. Alan was mad there weren't any octopus to take his picture by.
I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I thought we would have to wait for a special showing of Winter, or that we would have to buy a special pass, but it was just like in the movie. You walked in, came up the stairs, and there she was, in the same tank, right next to her friend Hope. It's such a small complex it feels really intimate. Nothing like SeaWorld or the Atlanta Aquarium.
The boys were sad Hope wasn't a baby anymore. She's almost full grown now, but she and Winter are still best of friends.
Winter getting some physical therapy...
Alan, trying on the prosthetic tail.
You can visit Winter and her friends at SeeWinter.com.
This aquarium gave me hope (pun intended). They are totally non-profit, run mostly by volunteers and their motto is Rescue, Rehabilitate, Release. I asked if the movies had given them some nice perpetual funding and the wonderful volunteer laughed at me. She informed me that other than some maintenance issues and new features like the houseboat and a new attraction called "Sawyers Passage" that were built specifically for scenes in the movie, the aquarium received no money from the movies. No back end deals, no merchandising, nada. Amazing. As we left Clearwater and headed to the Disney Mecca, Orlando, where it's all big and cheap and fake, and all about backend deals and merchandising, I was happy we took a detour to be reminded that there are people doing real good to make real happy endings. There's nothing big or fake about the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.