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Annual WOW Festival draws Lehigh community

March 20, 2019
By MELISSA BILL ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Lehigh Acres Municipal Services Improvement District hosted its Annual Wings Over Water Festival on Saturday, March 16, at Harns Marsh, in Lehigh Acres. The event was sponsored by the district as a way to help the public discover the beauty of Southwest Florida's water, land and wildlife. The festival event started at 9 a.m. and ran until 2 p.m.

Residents came to take part in the educational, community event which celebrates Southwest Florida's natural resources. Throughout the day, experts gave presentations and attendees browsed an array of exhibits, took guided walks and participated in a rubber duck race. There was also a kids' corner with activities and face painting.

Presentations included Dr. George Duncan, Master Gardener and President Garden Club of Lehigh Acres, who hosted a presentation about gardening in Southwest Florida, and festival favorite, Steve Masek was back by popular demand to host two live animal presentations.

Article Photos

Steve Masek (far right) introduced Ivy, a labyrinth patterned Burmese python.


Masek, who is a professional snake handler and wildlife expert, spoke about a variety of Florida's native and invasive animals and brought a few examples of what species can be found in South Florida.

"Invasive species such as the African spurred tortoise are able to thrive in our environment," said Masek. "These tortoises were brought here from Africa and start off as little pets, but quickly grow to be over 200 pounds. Then people don't want them and release them into the wild. They can live up to 80 years."

Masek also introduced Ivy, a labyrinth patterned Burmese python, which was born and raised in captivity. Ivy's length and size are a tribute as to just how big these reptiles can get and their resilience.

"People don't realize that pythons can survive in cold weather as well as warmer climates, so they are extremely adaptable," said Masek.

According to Masek, when it comes to owning exotic reptiles as pets, it's about education and how you take care of them.

Representatives from the Lee County Mosquito Control were available for questions regarding mosquito breeding and controlling populations.

"We have a special educational program with Lee County Schools where one of our educators goes into the class and talks to students about what we can do to help protect our community against diseases and slow down mosquito populations," said Jenifer McBride, an environmental education resource teacher.

McBride and fellow educator Mark McCreary, showed kids how a simple bottle cap full of water can breed between 100-200 mosquito larvae.

"Florida is the prefect environment for mosquitos to flourish," said McBride.

A representatives of the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) was on hand to speak with attendees about the organization's programs and itd dedication to saving local wildlife through state-of-the-art veterinary care, research and conservation medicine.

"Animal ambassador Lola is an American kestrel that arrived at CROW with a broken wing. Her injury prevents her from being released back into the wild, so she now comes to events to educate the public," explained Rachel Rainbolt, CGSP, CIG.

According to Rainbolt, CROW has a local wildlife drop-off site in Lehigh Acres.

"If someone finds an animal that is in need of help, they can call (239) 472-3644, ext. #222, or bring them to Animal Medical Center located at 2920 Lee Blvd," said Rainbolt.

Other education stations included: Fossil Expeditions, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, CHNEP, CREW Land and Trust, the Audubon Society. Lehigh Acres Fire Department was also on hand to educate and conduct blood pressure checks.

Coldwell Banker Preferred Properties hosted the WOW Festival's annual Rubber Duck Race to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. WOW participating organizations included; The Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce; The Rotary Club of Lehigh Acres and the Lehigh Acres Garden Club.

Harns Marsh Preserve is located off of Sunshine Blvd. and is maintained by Lehigh Acres MSID's. For more information visit:



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