Gulf of Mexico Program — GULF GUARDIAN AWARDS
THIRD PLACE -- Category: Youth Education
Company: Mississippi Power Company, Gulfport MS
Project Name: Celebrate the Gulf: A Marine Education Festival
The "Celebrate the Gulf Marine Education Festival" is held annually during the month of October at the Pass Christian, MS Harbor. It has occurred since 1991 and is the first and only purely environmental marine education festival on the Coast. The need for this type of event was recognized in the early 90s with the formation of the EPA's Gulf of Mexico Program. A void was identified in avenues available for dissemination of information to the public. The Festival was developed as a public awareness tool to assist the Gulf of Mexico Program with dissemination of information while providing the public with the tools necessary to become good conservationists and to protect themselves from any waterborne bacteria or contaminated shellfish, among other things. The festival also provides an outlet for many other entities that hold a common interest in preserving the Gulf to raise awareness with the public and to demonstrate known conservation concepts.
The Festival was designed for Grades K-8 children and their families and was originally held concurrently with the Race of the White Wings, a local historical sailboat race. Subsequent years were held during the same time frame, regardless of where or when the sailboat race occurred.
Maintaining the same time frame throughout the years proved to attract more public participation than did the sailboat race. During the past two years, the Festival has been held concurrently with the Pass Christian "Collage Festival of Art", with shuttle service running between the two events. This has also proven to be very successful. The average annual attendance at the Festival is approximately 2,000 individuals.
The planning and coordination of the Festival each year is conducted by a Committee that meets several months in advance. It is comprised of a minimum of one representative from the City of Pass Christian, employees from Mississippi Power Company, a DMR Agent and any others who may be interested in sponsoring or participating on a higher level.
In addition to exhibitors, local schools are contacted in advance and are encouraged to compete for cash attendance awards of $500 and $100 for first and second places respectively. Posters are displayed at the school as a reminder prior to the event. To measure their attendance, as well as to encourage their taking in the entire festival, a Scavenger Hunt of sorts takes place, where the students must visit each exhibit booth receiving validation stamps on their attendance form. These are then tallied to identify the winning school.