Writers Diane Bedard and Sally White pose for a sunset still at Pine Island beach during the Florida Outdoor Writers Conference.

Florida Outdoor Writers Association explores the Adventure Coast

By Diane Bedard Posted on September 20, 2018

Wednesday, September 12, professional outdoor writers from throughout Florida came to the Adventure Coast for our annual conference. We came to experience the best of Hernando County, rebranded as the Adventure Coast in 2015, with an emphasis on the natural adventures that abound throughout the area.

We began our adventure with a visit to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, where we enjoyed socializing and catching up with each other. We had hors d’ouevres, drinks and an underwater mermaid show in the Newton Perry Theatre. It was magical to say the least. If you have not seen the Weeki Wachee mermaids perform, you need to get there and experience it for yourself. The underwater ballet is so smooth and graceful that it enchants me every time I visit – as well as those who accompany.

Weeki Wachee mermaids perform their graceful aquatic ballet for the Florida Outdoor Writers.

Renovations to the mermaid theatre as well as the park will temporarily stop the performances from November 26, 2018 through March 15, 2019, so you will want to plan your visit accordingly.

Weeki Wachee mermaids are a unique breed, and they form a real bond as they entertain visitors from around the world. We were addressed by Vicki Smith, a former mermaid who returns to perform with her sisters of the deep once a month in the springs. Performances are scheduled for October 21 & 22, 27 & 28, as well as November 10 & 11, 2018 at 1:30 pm. Vicki is an energetic 79 years old. She told us she grew up in Brooksville and that when she graduated high school, “a young lady had 3 choices: get married, go to college or become a Weeki Wachee mermaid. I chose the latter.”

Vicki Smith, former mermaid who will turn 79 years young the next day, tells us about being part of the mermaid magic at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. She became a mermaid when she graduated high school.

Vicki is truly an inspiration! Expect an interview and feature on this in the future.

Dancing, Dining and Mingling with Mermaids

Florida Outdoor Writers were treated to a fine meal, complete with bite size desserts. Scallops, chicken, fresh vegetables and more followed by mini cheesecakes, key lime pie and brownie bites made the bellies happy while we enjoyed the beautiful Adventure Coast sunset over the Underwater Theatre. We took pictures with mermaids, who had to be returned via wheelchair because they don’t move as well out of the water!

The sunset over the Newton Perry Underwater Theatre and Buccanneer Bay was something to remember.

DJ tunes, energetic compatriots and an air of adventure mixed to make a night to remember.

Springs Fever 2018

Mallory Dimmitt, President of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, kicked off Springs Fever educational day for the Florida Outdoor Writers Association conference.

Every FOWA Conference includes an education component, as professional outdoor writers who are committed to honing our craft should have continuing education. Anyone is welcome to attend this day of the conference, while the rest of the days are reserved for members and guests only.

Dorothy Zimmerman, of Florida Sea Grant, plans this amazing resource for us each year. This year’s day began with Mallory Dimmitt, President of Florida Wildlife Corridor, updating us on what their organization is doing to create a corridor throughout the State to allow wildlife to safely cross. Next, we learned who is buying professional writing in today’s market from a panel of three outdoor publication editors.

We learned about he legalities of digital content and how to protect the work we publish, how to use social media to grow our audience with a small budget. The details of a study of the financial impact of scalloping to our area was detailed for us by Brittany Hall-Scharf, our local Sea Grant agent, during lunch.

This was all before 1pm!

Garmin’s VIRB360 was amazing to learn about. I want one.

On a lighter note, we got to touch and try the Garmin outdoor cameras, including their competitor to the GoPro and the GoPro 360. My biggest takeaways were that I want one and that you can turn them on and off with voice command. David Perry, Jr. of Hunter Springs Kayaks said that the ability to create a 360 video without having to use software was a big deal. He uses these types of cameras in his business, so I trust his opinion.

The afternoon featured Public Information Officers from Florida Fish and Wildlife, the Gulf Fisheries Management Council, Duke Energy, and the Southwest Water Management District. These are the people who help writers get their facts straight, provide quotes and help develop stories.

Oh Florida! contains a lot of really weird and entertaining Florida stories.

Then Craig Pittman, a longtime writer for the Tampa Bay Times and author of “Oh Florida!” entertained us with a myriad of stories of the strange and bizarre in our beautiful Sunshine State. The laughter was nearly continuous with Craig’s wit and subject matter. I highly recommend the book.

TJ Stallings Corporate/Tourism Showcase

We held this great event at the Sand Hill Scout Reservation. What a beautiful venue! The dining hall is large and open with a wide porch wrapping around ¾ of the building. Rocking chairs and a great view made for a delightful TJ Stallings Corporate/Tourism Showcase after the educational portion of our day.

Destinations set up table top displays and give information about their activities and attractions. We talk about our market niches and see if there is a fit. Friends are made. Plans are made to visit the destinations and experience them – then write about it. It’s what outdoor writers do!

We enjoyed learning about special lures and what makes them work better, a sunscreen company that makes reef safe sunscreen and why it’s a better way to protect your skin and the environment, more information on the organizations that help outdoor writers tell stories and more friendships are made.

The somewhat docile green heron on the Bayport Restaurant’s deck. His counterpart was naughty.

Thursday night was a night for us to get out and have a meal on our own. My friend, Sally White of Adventures of Mom, and I chose to visit the Bayport Inn and then a sunset at Pine Island park. Our food was good, but watching a huge crane steal a woman’s meal from her plate was the highlight of our visit. Everyone laughed. Apparently “Henry” has a reputation there and the restaurant was good about taking care of their guest.

I will let the sunset and the views along the road to Pine Island speak for themselves.

On the way to Pine Island, we stopped to take a few shots of the natural beauty of Florida’s Adventure Coast. Ahhhh…
As the sun was setting at Pine Island Park, we could hear the thunder and see the dark clouds rolling in from the south, but the sunset was gorgeous to the north, complete with dolphins swimming in the sea.
The thunder got more insistent and sun fell further down the horizon, so we took one more image from the beautiful new deck that Hernando County Parks and Rec recently installed before jumping into the truck and heading home.

The next two days involve activities throughout the Adventure Coast. Stay tuned for more …




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