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HomeAt Home & BeyondCreativity on display in Swamp Monster Costume Contest

Creativity on display in Swamp Monster Costume Contest

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As the Hernando County community heralded the 30th anniversary of the Weeki Wachee Swamp Festival, or the Swamp Fest, on March 3-5, at Linda Pedersen Park in Spring Hill, they also heralded the crowning of the superlative Swamp Monster for 2023. The winner of this year’s Swamp Fest Swamp Monster Costume Contest is just as protective of people as she is of the environment.

“We’ve been hosting the Swamp Fest for nearly 30 years. In the early days, we had a Swamp King and Swamp Queen,” said Karen Lenhard, information officer for the Swamp Fest. “And every one of those years, we’ve had a Swamp Monster Contest with three top prizes.”

Contest Coordinator Ida Cannariato always has a singular objective in mind when staging the Swamp Monster Contest, which awards cash prizes to those who ‘put their swampy on’ via colorful and creative swamp creature costumes. The Swamp Fest President Kathy Edwards and Vice President Victor Whayman announced contest prize winners. “We must protect and promote our swamp creatures!” explained a smiling Cannariato, who herself dressed the role of a swamp queen at the March 4 competition.

Emcee John Hindman shared in the light spirit of the competition, promising that the assembled Swamp Monsters would stick around “to terrorize Swamp Fest.”

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The 2023 Swamp Monster Contest Winner, Heather McCausland of Spring Hill, portrayed the character of Swamp Queen Marsh-A, scoring a first-place prize of $100 with a dress that came accented with a handmade green floral lace shawl, green floral face paint, and her own nature made crown. “I will destroy all of those who threaten the creatures and plants of the swamp and who pollute these waters!” Marsh-A declared in character to the crowd.

In real life, McCausland is a social worker who aids human trafficking survivors and is just as protective of people as she is of swamplands. And she has an arty side too! “I handmade my shawl and crown,” she revealed. “It took me all day to paste those flowers.”

Second-place Winner Emily Ollivier appeared in character as Empress Emily of the Swamplands, also donning a handmade costume. “I love expressing myself through art. And I love how Swamp Fest benefits so many charities,” said the winner of the $50 second place prize, dressed in a gem green and black dress with leafy accents.

Third-place Winners the Danielson family, Frank and Kathy, with granddaughter Emma, are thought to be the first family to compete in the Swamp Monster contest. “We made it a fun craft project,” said Kathy Danielson. “We picked flowers and took things from nature to decorate our hats.”

“We walked through the environment and saw what stuck to us,” agreed Frank Danielson.

Swamp Fest vendor Billie Jo Block, co-owner of Block knife sharpeners, hand-attached festive greenery to her swamp queen dress to compete in the contest. “I am playing a good swamp queen,” she declared. “Here to help everyone.”

Nick Meade dressed in full, mossy swamp regalia for his head-to-toe Swamp-Thing Style costume.”I’m wearing a ghillie suit and carrying a mossy staff,” he explained.

Contestant Kelly Reeve dressed in a tutu-clad alligator costume. This active Swamp Fest volunteer danced throughout the festival area, greeting guests and spreading good cheer. “I love coming here,” she said. “It’s all for the community.”

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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