The Hidden Coast Paddling Festival will bring 100 fine, friendly folks with a flotilla of kayaks to the old-Florida-flavored fishing village of Cedar Key. The Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge and the Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park will provide ample paddling venues for the fourth annual event, Oct. 4-6.
Our friends, neighbors and our public servants from the city, county, state and federal level, have planned the event to benefit our community by introducing paddlers to the quaint town of Cedar Key, its arts and foods, its inns and parks, and most importantly, its people. The event planning committee of 15 has planned 10 paddles from which to choose, socials, a beach-side brunch, a dinner and keynote speakers for the evenings. Two exciting events will be the very special paddle into the Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park, led by Park Manager Kristin Ebersol, and the exclusive opening of Cedar Keys Light Station provided by Refuge Manager Andrew Gude.
Some of the event’s guides include a FWC marine biologist, an FWC marine fisheries educator, a professional outfitter, a Florida Master Naturalist instructor and a state park manager, just to name a few volunteers who bring their knowledge and the joy of paddling with them.
When you see signs announcing the festival, know the benefit from nature-based tourism is immense. Paddlers, like photographers and birders who visit our nature coast, will stay several nights, eat in our restaurants, take a tour, acquire art, buy groceries, gas – and that’s the short list. They’ll go home telling stories of Cedar Key’s hospitality and plan on returning with their friends for yet another island adventure.
Event sponsors have donated gifts for each paddler. St. Leo’s College, knowing most paddlers are green-minded, donated water bottles for filling in order to cut the use of bottled water and Rapidmedia Publications gifted a year subscription to each registered participant.
Paddlers are non-consumptive users, they take away only photos and good time memories, but they leave behind an economic boon wherever they are welcomed. With two national wildlife refuges and three state parks, nature-based tourism is a natural.