Looking through the mouth of a shark.

Sharks on Land: The Venice Shark's Tooth Festival

The Venice Shark's Tooth Festival is the annual celebration of a Sarasota County community's unique claim to fame.

Sharks. The mere mention of these carnivorous creatures makes some people cringe.

In Venice, however, it's actually cause for celebration.

Every spring, thousands of people attend the city's famous Sharks Tooth Festival and voraciously devour three days of food, fossils, arts and crafts, music and fun for the whole family.

Bring your family, too, and never fear – these sharks' teeth are prehistoric.

Why all the fuss over fossils? As one of the few cities on Florida's west coast without a barrier island, Venice is known as "The Sharks' Tooth Capital of the World" since millions of prehistoric sharks' teeth wash up on its sandy beaches annually.

Combing these shores to look for the dark gems has always been a favorite pastime of visitors and residents here. Success is basically guaranteed.

Anthropologist-wannabes also delight in the occasional lucky find of fossilized bone fragments from other prehistoric animals such as bison, sloths and tapirs.

Festival Details
Held near the aptly named city's best shark-tooth-hunting-beach (not to mention Sharky's on the Pier restaurant), the festival showcases sharks' teeth, sharks' jaws, stingray spine fragments, stingray teeth, alligator teeth, sea biscuits and more.

Artisans sell homemade crafts, jewelry, clothes and sea-related treasures.

Live entertainment is nonstop and food vendors serve up delicious dishes from seafood to barbecue.

Kids enjoy a game and ride area and fun, hands-on exhibits.

Music at the festival is a crowd-pleasing combo of everything from country western to calypso, reggae, salsa, rock 'n' roll, Cajun and blues.

Past performers have included the Manatee Cloggers, Cowboy Wild, The Cryin' Shames, The Gumbo Boogie Band, Eddie C & the Bluesmakers, The Trinidudes and Gashouse Gorillas.

About Venice
In addition to sharks' tooth discoveries, beaches in the Venice area offer excellent shelling, smooth golden sand, crystal-blue waters, lifeguards and the coveted Blue Wave certification, a Clean Beach Council designation indicating superior water quality, cleanliness, safety, services and maintenance, conservation efforts, warning/information systems and erosion management.

Just minutes from the beach, the picturesque downtown is a well-preserved, historical gem surrounded by waterways and graced by Northern Italian architecture and beautifully landscaped boulevards dating back to the original city plans of 1925.

Parks, fountains, statuary benches and nostalgic streetlights add to the Old World ambience. Downtown's "island avenues" are lined with gift and clothing boutiques, craft stores, antique shops, sidewalk cafes and gourmet restaurants. The beach is just a short, shaded stroll away past live oaks, banyans and flowering trees.

Fun Shark Facts
Sharks have lived in the Gulf of Mexico for millions of years and have evolved very little over this time. Since sharks regenerate their teeth, a single shark may produce thousands in a lifetime. Sharks' teeth may be black, brown or gray, depending on the minerals in the sand. Despite having fabulous chompers, most sharks do not chew their food, but gulp it down whole in large pieces.

For up-to-date information about the Shark's Tooth Festival, go to http://www.sharkstoothfest.com/.