- Associated Press - Friday, November 13, 2015

MARINELAND, Fla. (AP) - Flagler County’s Marineland, one of the smallest incorporated municipalities in Florida and home to the longtime dolphin amusement park, is celebrating its 75th birthday.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal (http://bit.ly/1NPVq1k) reports that the seaside town is celebrating this weekend with three days of events beginning Friday.

Marineland was incorporated in 1940, two years after the creation of Marine Studios, which would become one of the state’s first big commercial tourist attractions. Within two years of its opening, the attraction was drawing nearly 500,000 visitors annually.

The birthday celebration over the weekend will focus on the seaside town’s past, present and future, Mayor Leslie Babonis said.

“It’s an opportunity for us to celebrate who we are now and what we will become in the future,” she said. “We’re really trying to engage our community in helping us define our future.”

While the attraction’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed over the years as bigger tourist destinations emerged in Florida, the town is also the home to the University of Florida’s Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience and the River to Sea Preserve.

In 1940, Marineland was believed to be the smallest incorporated municipality in the United States, with 26 registered voters.

The U.S. Census Bureau puts the town’s population at 16, but Mayor Leslie Babonis says there are actually five permanent residents.

One of the popular stories about Marineland has is that the dolphins at the attraction outnumber the humans. But Kurt Allen, general manager at Marineland Dolphin Adventure, noted there are 14 dolphins at the facility.

Babonis said when people think about Marineland, they usually focus only on the attraction.

“We’re a lot more than (the attraction),” she said. “There’s actually a lot more going on in the town, so we want to celebrate all of who we are.”

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Information from: Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal, http://www.news-journalonline.com

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