ADEL -- Welcome to Daytona Beach. Georgia, that is.

On Monday, more than 170 tons of white beach sand transformed the Cook County Exchange Club Fairgrounds into beach, for the first-ever Waterfest going on this weekend.

Adults pay $5, children 7-12 pay $3, and children 6 and under receive free admission. People with military identification also get free admission. Gates open today from noon to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to about 1 a.m.

Among the festivities offered this weekend are a Ms. Waterfest pageant, boat education classes presented by the U.S. Coast Guard, sand castle building competition, a battle of the bands and more. Vendors and exhibitors will be on hand.

Of course, the Waterfest isn't all about fun in the sun. On Thursday, Gary Burtle from the Tifton University of Georgia campus talked about the benefits of aquacultural farming, where people farm edible water-based animals such as fish and shrimp, instead of traditional farming.

One of the event organizers, Jim Ottman, Exchange Club member, said education was a factor when the Waterfest, sponsored by the Cook County Exchange Club, was created. He said aquaculture was a growing field in the Southeast.

Burtle told the audience of 11 Thursday that shrimp farming began in the United States in the early 1990s in about three states. Now, six states are participating. However, he cautioned, aquacultural farming isn't easy. But, because it is difficult, it is also profitable. A booth on aquaculture will be present all weekend.

Today will be kid's day. Cook County fourth-grade students will spend time at the fairgrounds learning about aquaculture, water quality analysis and fish identification. They will also play some games, such as a catfish rodeo and a water relay. The first few categories of the Ms. Waterfest pageant, Baby Waterfest through Little Waterfest, will also occur.

The Ms. Waterfest pageant concludes on Saturday, and the beach party begins. While parents explore their interests in boats, pools or other things, Ottman said children can learn more about water safety and other fun things.

"It should be a great time for all members of the family," Ottman said.



To contact reporter Marie Arrington, please call 244-3400, ext. 254.



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