Andy Olday, left, hoists his daughter Emilia, so she can view a video screen on an underwater camera at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center  in Key West, Fla. Through a series of interactive exhibits, the $6 million Eco-Discovery Center showcases the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary's environment. Photo by Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau

Andy Olday, left, hoists his daughter Emilia, so she can view a video screen on an underwater camera at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center in Key West, Fla. Through a series of interactive exhibits, the $6 million Eco-Discovery Center showcases the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary's environment. Photo by Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau

KEY WEST, Florida Keys — The southernmost island chain’s vibrant marine environment is to be celebrated with live music, artistry, kids’ activities, educational exhibits and more during the Florida Keys Ocean Festival, set for noon to sunset Saturday, March 27.

The event takes place at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, located on Key West’s Truman Waterfront past the end of Southard Street. The 6,400-square-foot facility, the visitor center for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, showcases the region’s unique ecosystem including the living coral reef that parallels the island chain.

Part of the proceeds from the Ocean Festival, a facet of Mote Marine Laboratory’s 55th anniversary year, is to support coral reef restoration and research. A living reef exhibit created by Florida-based Mote Marine is one of the highlights of the eco-discovery center.

Attendees at the lively daylong festival can enjoy food and beverages, explore Mote’s mobile aquarium and touch tanks, view the work of marine artists and listen to live music by regional favorites Cory Heydon, Chris Cook and Scott Kirby. Renowned Nashville singer-songwriter James Slater is slated to make a special appearance.

In addition, a fishing clinic for kids is planned, with free rods and reels awaiting the first 25 youngsters to register.

Informative exhibits are to spotlight the Keys’ environmental efforts, with scheduled exhibitors including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Key Deer Refuge, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Event admission and parking are free. For more information, visit www.keysoceanfest.org.

For lodging information in Key West, contact the Key West Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-LAST-KEY (800-527-8539) or visit the Keys Web site at www.fla-keys.com.

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