Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sponge-worthy: Tarpon Springs, Florida's Spongeorama

 Step right this way!

 Just a little bit further...

 Become an expert!

 A throng of spectators take in the sponge documentary.

 And then the dioramas await...

 On to the gift shop!

Don't care for sponges? Abalonie to you!

We're suckers for any place that has a suffix of "orama" in its title and there's a real lulu in the warm and friendly Florida gulf coast community of Tarpon Springs. Spongeorama was created in 1968 and boasts of its "world famous Spongeorama museum" that pays tribute to the industry and the Greeks who immigrated to America to create better lives for themselves working in it. They offer a free, yes free, movie and entrance to the museum. There are actually two  movies: a yellowed 1980s-looking infomercial about the different types of natural sponges for sale in the gift shop, and a 1950s-looking documentary about sponge diving that will remind baby boomers of the movies shown on rainy days after lunch in elementary school when you couldn't be let outside for recess. The crowds of bargain-savvy documentary-loving tourists populate the benches in the multi-media center (or back room next to the gift shop) and sit in awe at nature's marvel of endoskeletal, biomineralized, soon-to-be kitchen implements. After that, a tour of the museum's dioramas is not to be missed, with their late-60s mannequins, high school science fair-style reproductions of historical events, and windows that look like they haven't been cleaned since Lyndon Johnson was president. Then it's on to the glory of the gift shop, where you can buy a fabulous array of natural local sponges as well as other Florida keepsakes, all at a 10% discount now that you're a Spongeorama-deemed "expert" in the world of sponges.

Places like this are a dream come true for us, reminding us of our childhoods and the earnest efforts of people devoted to a subject others might consider mundane or unworthy. We would love to go back again and again to soak up the atmosphere.


luvlinens said...

My brother and I made a special point to go through Tarpon Springs back in Feb. on our way home from a road trip to New Orleans. Unfortunately it was raining so we limited our time to a few gift shops and a short walk on the strip by the docks between the raindrops. Did have to buy a vase sponge for strictly decorative purposed also had to have a star fish to go inside it along with a few shells. Would love to go back; totally missed the spongeorama!

Mod Betty / said...

Count me in on the "you had me at -arama" crowd! We haven't been here yet but great gosh-amighty we would like to check it out next time we're in FLA. Thanks for the reminder Gunner J!

Bill said...

Is that mannequin suppose to be Jesus…. WIth a SPONGE on his head!!!! I know Jesus has a great sense of humor ( he invented Walmart, after all) but this might be pushing the Big Guy's limits. I'd stand back to avoid the lightning bolt, if I were you.