Beer & Wine

Funky Buddha Hosts a Manatee Derby with 'N Sync's Chris Kirkpatrick and Joey Fatone

No manatees will be actually ridden by humans during the Manatee Derby.
No manatees will be actually ridden by humans during the Manatee Derby. Photo courtesy of Funky Buddha
What do Florida manatees and thoroughbred horses have in common? Absolutely nothing — until now.

The lovable sea cows, never known for being speedy, will now participate in a Manatee Derby to raise funds and awareness of the plight of these creatures that share our waterways.

Funky Buddha has partnered with the Save the Manatee Club, a nonprofit founded in 1981 by Jimmy Buffett and former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, to host the Derby.

The virtual Derby will be held on World Oceans Day (June 8) at 6 p.m., with a group of manatees racing toward the finish line. And by "racing," the Save the Manatee Club means "slowly swimming." The action can be viewed at manateederby.com.


Chris Kirkpatrick and Joey Fatone from 'N Sync will perform during the Derby's halftime show. Here's hoping they'll perform their classic, "It's Gonna be Manna-te."

In the days leading up to the race, follow Funky Buddha's Instagram to get to know the manatee entrants and their (virtual) jockeys.

On a more serious note, Florida manatees are a threatened species according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and at the state level by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Although they were reclassified from an endangered to a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2017, humans continue to be a real threat to their survival. According to Save the Mantee Club, the manatee deaths are most commonly caused by watercraft collisions, floodgate or canal locks, or other human-related incidents.

Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and executive director of Save the Manatee Club, notes that polluted waterways are also a threat to manatees. The algae blooms that form kill the seagrasses that the sea cows eat and poison the waters they — and humans — need in order to live.

John Linn, marketing director for Funky Buddha & Constellation Brands, says Funky Buddha wanted to find a novel way to engage consumers on the issue of Florida's water quality.

"The beer and hard seltzers we make are 99 percent water and the quality of that water impacts all Floridians — whether they're human or manatee," Linn notes.

Linn and his team worked with Funky Buddha's agency partner, the Community, to come up with the Manatee Derby.

"It's a unique way to take about these charming creatures on World Ocean Day," he says.

Linn declined to go into how the Manatee Derby will actually work, other than to assure that no manatees will be ridden — or even touched or disturbed — though the Derby will involve some real manatees and a little bit of magic. "You have to see it to believe it," he says.

As event partner, Funky Buddha will donate $30,000 to support research and rescue efforts for Florida's state mammal. And, from June 4 through the end of the month, Funky Buddha is asking fans of the Derby to donate, as well. The brewery will match contributions up to $20,000. Donations can be made via manateederby.com.

The event also celebrates Funky Buddha premium hard
seltzer’s recent expansion into eight new markets outside Florida (including Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina), as well as the launch of its new tropical-flavor pack.

So, on June 8, plan to watch some manatees race for a cause while you pop open a Funky Buddha hard seltzer. It's a very Florida way to spend an evening.

Funky Buddha Manatee Derby to Benefit Save the Manatee Club. Tuesday, June 8, at 6 p.m. via manateederby.com. Free to watch; donations accepted.
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss