On our fourth day at Disney we flew the coop! We spent February 13, 2013 in Clearwater, Florida for a very special reason. Jordan saw the movie called “A Dolphin Tale” about a year ago and she became completely fascinated with Winter’s story. She really identifies with Winter because of her disability and because she has to wear prosthetics as well.
We got up early and drove for an hour and a half to get to Clearwater. We started the day at the Dolphin Tale portion of the exhibit. There was a ton of memorabilia from the movie, and several Winter related displays including this fascinating one featuring the evolution of her prosthetics. A lot of people who watched the movie believe that Winter rejected her tail at first, but she didn’t! That was only added for drama in the movie. She didn’t really like them much, but they slowly introduced her to them and she did just fine.
Jordan was fascinated by being able to touch the actual gel that is used in Winter’s tail. She said that she wishes her braces were as soft on her feet!
When we finished the movie museum, we waited for the trolley to take us to the actual aquarium. Jordan decided that the trolley was taking entirely too long so she copped an attitude. I told her I’d take the photo and scrapbook it anyway, and I plan to!
Once we got on the trolley, she was thrilled. The sides were open and we really fast over a huge bridge, she kept pretending that she was flying.
The trolley’s were awesome in the fact that they had a wheelchair lift. We had a very nice driver who fastened her chair down so she would be safe.
We got there just in time to watch Winter’s first show. The kids sat really still and listened to everything the trainers said. My favorite part of the show was when the trainer leaned over and kissed Winter’s tail. It was just so stinking sweet!
They gave Winter a cue to smile at the end of the show and I caught this shot. It’s one of my favorite photos from the day. She just looks so happy and content.
After the show, we had to hang out near the encounter sign because we bought Jordan a dolphin encounter for Christmas. A volunteer came around with a shark jaw while we were waiting, and Jordan was definitely into posing with it.
Jordan and Ronnie went down for the dolphin encounter and I stayed up to take photos. She was above and beyond excited!
They got to play with Hope. Hope is a two year old dolphin who was rescued when she was two or three months old. She was found with her deceased mother and was severely malnourished. They got to rub her tummy, make her blow bubbles, and help her paint.
They also got to help her do some really cool tricks during Hope’s dolphin show.
Ronnie even posed for pictures with her. He raved about how much fun he had and how amazing it was to meet Hope.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium rescues many different types of animals. They have sharks, pelicans, sea turtles, dolphins, and otters.
Brandon found another volunteer with even bigger shark jaws to pose. He was trying to see if his mouth was bigger than the shark’s. Too cute!
Remember Rufus, the pelican from The Dolphin Tale? Rufus was actually played by two pelicans named Ricky and Lucy. They live at the aquarium too!
Later in the day, we caught Winter’s second show. They put her prosthetic tale on and she swam around with it. Jordan was absolutely fascinated. I told her that Winter didn’t fuss when she wore her tail and Jordan told me that she wouldn’t fuss for her braces anymore either. (We’ll see how that goes!)
Remember the blue mat that Winter loved in the movie? That’s actually very true. They threw it in the pool with her and she was so funny. She tweeted and rolled all over it. I swear, she reminded me of a kid the way she played and acted silly!
We got to watch a sea turtle show too. One of the volunteers went down into the exhibit to feed the turtles by hand. If we lived closer to this aquarium, I can guarantee that I would be volunteering. I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was growing up, and to volunteer there would be the next best thing.
Toward the end of our visit, we went up to the top of the aquarium to have our photo taken with Nicholas. We watched him go through a few tricks with his trainer first.
I loved the fact that Clearwater Marine Aquarium is so accessible to people with disabilities. Jordan was able to get around easily, and there were parking places for her wheelchair where she could watch the shows.
Ronnie and Brandon got some cuddle time while we waited for our photo opportunity. Brandon likes to kiss Ronnie on top of his head because of his spiky hair.
I passed my camera to Ronnie during the photo opportunity. Nicholas jumped all around while we smiled and posed. We ended up with several neat pictures!
What we didn’t know was that it’s a tradition for Nicholas to SPLASH the people participating in the photo opportunity after he is finished with his tricks. This photo was taken seconds before he splashed the living goodness out of us.
We got so wet that my tennis shoes were squishing! I took the brunt of the splash because the kids were in front of me. It was cold and the salt water even stung a little bit. Ronnie thought it was hilarious. I wasn’t as amused.
We got in the van to head home and all of the kids promptly passed out. They were exhausted from their very busy day.
Ronnie drove back to the Polynesian as quickly as possible because we had dinner reservations at ‘Ohana for 5:00. We got there at 4:50 and we didn’t have time to change. We went to dinner slightly damp, but very happy!