Twenty-five years of mullet and music
Sand color causes concern
No trolley around Bean Point
Add asbestos to mold problem at city hall
Long-time employees recognized in Holmes Beach
to work with city on replacement trees
GSR property sales efforts increase
addresses island insured
Landraitis honored by players
of mullet and music
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
CORTEZ - Blue Fulford sits in the shade making a
net as the smoky smell of mullet wafts by. Charley
Canniff and his wandering singers perform sea shanties
in the village streets. White pelicans scatter as
Roger Allen launches a handmade wooden sailboat into
This isnt Disney; its real Florida, Cortez-style,
and the commercial fishing village will celebrate
its heritage this weekend during the 25th Annual Cortez
Commercial Fishing Festival.
In 1982, Cortez fishermen got the idea to educate
people about seafood and the people who catch it.
"The whole purpose was public education that
net fishing wasnt the destructive force that
some people were portraying it as," said Allen
Garner, one of the original festival organizers and
president of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage
"We wanted to show that we were regular working
families trying to carry on like our dads and granddads,"
said Mark Taylor, another organizer and a Cortez chapter
director and state president of the Organized Fishermen
of Florida (OFF).
"Everybody was pulling together because of the
anti-fishing lobbying," said Danny Woodson, a
festival organizer who now works in seafood sales
in Tampa. "OFF had meetings at the firehouse
and we decided to start a tradition."
The closeknit community pitched in. Sheila Mora went
door to door collecting signed approvals from nearby
property owners. Villagers made fish chowder, which
was gone by noon the day of the first festival, organizer
John Stevely recalled, estimating that thousands attended.
"It overwhelmed all of us because we thought
would it be a small event," Woodson said.
The novice event promoters learned other lessons,
"We forgot to make arrangements to deposit the
festival receipts," Stevely laughed. "I
drove home with the proceeds, I think it was around
$3,500, in the trunk of the car until I could deposit
them when the bank opened."
For the first six years, the festival was a loss,
but less money was lost each year, Taylor said. To
keep it going, a $1 admission was charged, later modestly
raised to $2, where it has stayed ever since.
At first the festival was one day only. It was held
on the Presidents Day Monday holiday for a couple
of years to avoid interfering with Cortez businesses,
Garner said, but there were worries about losing everything
if the weather was bad that day. A plan to expand
to two weekend days required negotiating with the
village churches to open at 1 p.m. on Sundays, which
the festival still respects.
Ministers from churches in and out of Cortez have
been invited to give the ceremonial blessing of the
fleet at each festival. One year, just before the
blessing, the crowd got more of a glimpse of village
life than organizers intended when a couple of fishermen
chose that moment to start brawling on a boat behind
the minister, recalled Taylor, who helped break up
In the early days, fishermen lined up their boats
in the fish house parking lot from the smallest to
the largest, and Stevely would lecture on what the
boats were used for, jumping from one to another,
"We mended nets and demonstrated poling skiffs,
and the Miss Cortez fleet shuttled people to Cortez
from Coquina Beach," he said.
In the early years, there was no stage for the bands,
recalled longtime festival participant Richard Culbreath,
whose popular country band is scheduled to play at
this years festival.
One Saturday, it rained, and drummer Bill Ashley set
up under the Star Fish Co. stairs to stay dry. It
would have been a great idea, except that as people
walked up and down the stairs, they were kicking mud
on him, he laughed.
At a later festival, in true Cortezian style, a stage
was constructed on a boat trailer, which gave a whole
new meaning to the words rock and roll when the band
members started stomping their feet.
Over the years, Mora, who founded a womens auxiliary,
has designed festival T-shirts and written and illustrated
four Cortez cookbooks, while other volunteers have
built ticket booths, cooked Cortez hot dogs (fried
mullet in hot dog buns) and built a track for blue
More childrens events including pony rides and
rock climbing were added, seafood vendors multiplied,
the festival moved from the east end of the village
to the west end and nautical artists were invited
Since its second year, the festival has purchased
some of the art works, Garner said, many of which
were moved this month to the new Florida Maritime
Museum at the east end of the village for display.
Some of the Cortez collection also is on display at
the community center.
When the constitutional amendment to ban gill nets
was passed in 1994, putting many fishermen out of
work, Stevely wondered if the devastated community
still had the will to organize the festival. But the
response was loud and clear, he said - "Now more
"Weve lost the nets, but its become
a profitable venture," Garner said. So with the
festival proceeds, the FISH organization has taken
a new tack - purchasing and preserving 95 acres of
environmentally sensitive land east of the village
on Sarasota Bay called the FISH Preserve.
"It makes me proud that it still continues,"
said Taylor, who left fishing after the net ban, as
"Im not surprised it lasted 25 years,"
said Woodson, who is planning to attend the 25th anniversary
by boat. "Even though we dont have gill
nets, we have heritage."
Sand color causes
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
Dark sand scheduled to be dredged from Longboat Pass
and the Intracoastal Waterway could wind up on Coquina
Beach, the Manatee County Tourist Development Council
learned on Monday.
Charlie Hunsicker, of the Manatee County Conservation
Lands Management Department, briefed the board on
a pending emergency project by the Army Corps of Engineers
to correct a dangerous shoaling condition in the Intracoastal
just south of Longboat Pass, and the pass itself.
"Lack of routine maintenance has created a condition
where boats jockey for position," he said.
The dredged sand was scheduled to be deposited on
spoil sites including Coquina Beach as part of the
countys beach renourishment program, Hunsicker
But an examination on Friday of core samples of the
sand showed it was dark and silty, causing concern,
An alternative would be to remove the Australian pines
from Beer Can Island at the north end of Longboat
Key and dispose of the sand there, Hunsicker said.
Other alternative sites are Cortez and the Sister
Keys, except that a healthy population of gopher tortoises
there would have to be relocated, he said.
About 70,000 cubic yards of sand will be dredged,
and the designated spoil site on Coquina Beach is
5,000 cubic yards, he said.
When he first heard of the proposal, "My mind
closed around the nightmare scenario of having the
darkest stuff on Coquina Beach," Bradenton Area
Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Larry White
Council Chairman Joe McClash tried to calm fears,
saying that the sand could be deposited at other spots
including across from Coquina Beach on the east side
of Gulf Drive. He added that the sand may not all
be dark, and that there is time to investigate the
problem, as Army Corps projects move slowly.
No trolley around
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
ANNA MARIA The trolley will not be going around
the north end of the Island any time soon.
An Anna Maria resident brought up the idea of extending
the trolley route at a meeting late last year of the
Island Transportation Planning Organization.
Mark Alonso said he found it disturbing that a resident
or a visitor could take the trolley anywhere on the
Island except into his neighborhood.
Since then, there has been a lot of discussion among
residents about the trolley as well as several articles
in The Sun.
Mayor Fran Barford talked to county transit officials
who said the trolley could navigate the narrow roads
and humpback bridge to access the north tip of the
"But Im worried about our humpback bridge,"
she said. "I know that trucks and school busses
use that bridge every day, but the trolley would use
it every 20 minutes. I just hate to think of the wear
and tear on that bridge. As mayor, I really feel this
is a major issue."
Commissioner Duke Miller concurred with Barford about
the potential impact on the bridge over the Lake La
Vista Inlet on North Bay Boulevard.
Miller pointed out that the city owns that bridge.
"When that bridge wears out, its going
to be very expensive to replace it. Its not
built to current standards, and well have to
acquire more land. That trolley would really take
Barford said she knows that there are some elderly
and physically challenged people who live in that
area who would like the trolley to come close to their
"But we talked to MCAT, and there are other ways
people can get around," she said, referring to
the Handy Bus system in the county.
Other commissioners agreed that there had to be some
transportation access for people on the north end
who need it, but that the trolley wasnt the
only option for providing that.
"There is a need in this city for some people
who arent as mobile as the rest of us,"
Commissioner Dale Woodland said. "Its a
long distance from Bean Point to Pine Avenue (the
northern most street used by the trolley.), but the
trolley may not be the best way to handle this."
Commissioner Chris Tollette expressed safety concerns
pointing out that walkers, bicyclers, rollerbladers
and cars already share quite narrow roads in that
"I think we would create a major hazard for everyone
by adding the trolley," she said. "But I
do agree that we should come up with a solution for
those people who need help getting to the doctor or
During the public comment portion of the meeting,
Tara OBrien said she thinks there are other
issues impacting possible trolley service to the north
"I think that we are trying to avoid the elephant
in the room the tourists," she said. "The
fact is that the majority of people using the trolley
are tourists, and we dont want them here."
Resident Randall Stover was opposed to the extension
of the route.
"The idea is ludicrous," he said. "Wed
be spending on it like a drunken sailor. We are talking
about taking the commercial bus service through the
At the end of the discussion, commissioners opted
to leave the trolley route alone. The trolleys will
continue to use the city pier as their northern terminus.
to mold problem at city hall
By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer
ANNA MARIA More problems have been discovered
at city hall. Now theres asbestos to deal with.
The asbestos was uncovered as technicians from In
Star, a mold remediation company, were poised to begin
removing the mold that has been growing in several
areas of the building the result of a bad leak
that occurred last August during a re-roofing project.
There have been several smaller leaks since then.
Mayor Fran Barford told city commissioners at their
Feb. 8 work session about the asbestos.
"We dont know the full extent of it yet,"
she said. "The mold and asbestos will have an
impact on each other. We cant do one without
The mayor had Scott Russell from Environmental Safety
Consultants advise commissioners on the impact of
the asbestos find.
"The asbestos was found in particulate material
on some drywall," Russell said. "We need
to do some fairly widespread testing."
Russell said that testing would be done early this
week, and until that testing is complete, estimates
on how much asbestos will need to be cleaned up and
how much that will cost remains unknown.
Barford told commissioners that the asbestos has to
be removed before the mold can be removed.
"The mold remediation will disturb the drywall,
so that needs to be taken care of first," Barford
Asbestos was found and removed previously from city
hall during a remodeling project in 2004.
"We didnt test the areas where the asbestos
is now," Public Works Director George McKay said.
McKay oversaw the remodeling project.
"You dont need to do anything about asbestos
unless you are going to disturb it," he added.
"The mold removal will disturb the asbestos,
so it has to be removed."
Barford has mentioned several times that she has nightmares
about the problems.
"I see mold and reconstruction in my dreams,"
she told commissioners.
After the asbestos is removed and the mold is removed,
the building will undergo reconstruction. New drywall
will have to be installed, and the carpeting and ceiling
tiles will have to be replaced, as will the chairs
behind the dais in the commission chambers.
"We wont know how much the reconstruction
will cost until we get in there and see the extent
of the mold," Barford said.
City hall operations have been moved to the Island
Baptist Church while the problems at city hall are
Original time projections for the cleanup and reconstruction
were set at seven weeks. Its not known exactly
how finding the asbestos will affect the timetable.
Costs for the first phase of the cleanup, not including
reconstruction, are already at $32,500.
The city is initiating a lawsuit against Roof U.S.A.,
the company that did the re-roofing project that resulted
in the original leak that started the chain of events.
Commissioners have been told the city should retain
a construction attorney, and the city attorney is
looking for one.
Meanwhile, commission and some other city meetings
are being held at Holmes Beach City Hall.
recognized in Holmes Beach
By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer
HOLMES BEACH Mayor Rich Bohnenberger recently
recognized seven employees who have worked for the
city for 20 or more years each.
"I guess its a good sign," Bohnenberger
said of their longevity. "Nobody works because
its fun, but its a good place to work
if you have to work. I think the city is better off
for that,because in other communities in the area
they have constant turnover. Weve been fortunate."
Bohnenberger presented plaques to the following employees:
Police Chief Jay Romine, 20 years; Lt. Dale Stephenson,
20 years; Officer Rob Velardi, 20 years; and Assistant
Public Works Foreman Gary Blunden, 21 years.
Romine and his wife, Jayne, have a daughter, Ashley.
Stephenson and his wife, Kelly, have three children,
Melissa, Deanna, and Brian. Velardi and his wife,
Angela, have three daughters, Adriane, Alise and Amelia.
Blunden and his wife Debbie, have a son, Chris, and
a daughter, Amy.
Employees unable to attend the ceremony included Officer
Jim Cumston, 20 years, and Public Works employee Wayne
Vandermolen, 21 years. The plaque of the late Public
Works Foreman Skip Nunn, 30 years, will be presented
to his wife, Ginny. Bohnenberger presented a plaque
to Officer Michael Leonard for pursuing and capturing
the CVS robbery suspect on Christmas day.
County to work
with city on replacement trees
By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer
BRADENTON BEACH The trunks and gnarled roots
of the Australian pines that littered the Cortez Beach
parking lot have been removed. Following a period
of protest by a group of people who wanted the trees
to stay, the county is looking forward to replacing
them with native trees.
The trees were taken down as a prelude to installing
the Coquina Beach Trail, a joint project of Manatee
County and Bradenton Beach.
Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department Project
Manager Tom Yarger updated the Bradenton Beach Scenic
Highway Committee on the project at its meeting on
Tuesday, Feb. 6 and offered the city a voice in deciding
what trees will replace them.
"It might be a good idea to have residents voice
their opinion through a group like the Scenic Highway
Committee on what kind of trees they want to see there,"
Mike Sosadeeter, who also works for the Parks and
Recreation Department and who serves on the Scenic
Highway Committee, suggested they get a list of native,
salt tolerant trees from which to choose, but Mayor
John Chappie had another suggestion.
"Maybe you should look at Mike Millers
list of trees from his website, perfectisland.org,"
the mayor said, referring to the Anna Maria resident
whose Web site includes lists of native plants that
he developed during16 years of volunteer planting
for the city of Anna Maria.
Yarger told the committee that the county is not replacing
every tree with a new one. He said they would work
to replace the shade canopies that were reduced by
the tree removal.
"We need to strategically pick areas where they
need shade," he said.
City Commissioner Bill Shearon, whose district encompasses
that part of the city, said the reaction to the tree
removal was 50-50.
"Half said theyre glad the trees are gone,
and the other are not happy," he said. "Im
afraid that when the county comes in to put up more
trees along the road, some of the homeowners are going
to be unhappy because the new trees will block the
view of the beach that they have gained."
Yarger said the county would take the sightline into
consideration and would not plant a new tree in front
of somebodys picture window.
"Ill bet dollars to donuts that the property
owners on the south end are not going to want something
planted on the beach," Chappie said.
Chappie said one problem is the fact that the county
placed large rocks along the shore to fortify the
beach and those rocks are only a few feet under the
sand. He said the Australian pines, with their shallow
root system, were one of the few, large shade trees
that would grow there.
"Well finish the trail and then some up
with a plan for replanting," Yarger said. "Well
bring to the Scenic Highway Committee after that."
sales efforts increase
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
BRADENTON BEACH More Bradenton Beach properties
owned by GSR Development are going up for sale pending
approval by the Tampa bankruptcy court.
The assets of the company, whose principals are Robert
Byrne and Steven Noriega, are being liquidated to
pay creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy
GSRs Chief Restructuring Manager Bill Maloney
has requested that the court approve a non-exclusive
brokerage agreement to sell the vacant Gulffront Rosa
del Mar property at 2508-2516 Gulf Drive N.
The agreement would protect non-exclusive brokers
commissions while allowing multiple brokers to market
the property, according to the request.
Maloney said that he has been approached by more than
a dozen Realtors with potential buyers for Rosa del
Mar, which was planned as a 14-unit condominium.
If they cannot produce a buyer by April 1, a national
firm may be brought in, according to the agreement.
Maloney also asked the court to appoint Michael Saunders
& Co. as the exclusive listing broker for 110
Seventh St. S. #1 and #2, Bradenton Beach, as part
of a compromise with creditor Bayfront Holdings. The
Gardenia units are priced at $895,000 and $925,000,
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
Two Liberty Mutual customers were reassured by state
Rep. Bill Galvano on Saturday that their insurance
would not be cancelled.
Gov. Charlie Crists Jan. 30 executive order
prevents property insurance companies from dropping
customers, regardless of whether the company sent
a non-renewal notice before or after that date, he
said during a speech to the Kiwanis Club in Holmes
The freeze is in effect until the new legislation
passed in January is implemented, he said.
To another customer who heard that the company is
leaving Florida, he said "probably not,"
because of the new law.
Galvano also assured another audience member whose
private insurance has increased from $1,200 to $3,700
that she will see some rate relief as a result of
the new law.
Insurance customers can now negotiate rates by raising
their deductibles, excluding wind coverage or excluding
contents coverage under the new law, he said.
Galvano also said that the Legislature asked the federal
governments assistance in providing regional
or nationwide reinsurance at a lower rate, which would
be passed on to consumers as savings.
The new law will require insurance companies to disclose
profits so that state regulators can determine if
rates are unreasonably high, he said.
"Its the first time we were focused on
the numbers rather than rhetoric."
Landraitis honored by players
By Bill Bartlett
special to the sun
Last Saturday, the Anna Maria horseshoe players celebrated
the 90th birthday of one of their most beloved players,
George Landraitis. Immediately following the mornings
games, about 60 players, spouses, children and friends
gathered at the North Shore Drive home of Steve and
Joanne Doyle, where a buffet luncheon was held in
Landraitis honor. E-mails and greeting cards
were opened from around the world and each prompted
a story by Landraitis about its sender. During my
two years with the Anna Maria horseshoe group, Ive
had the pleasure of getting to know Landraitis well
through his stories, which are never short on animation
or pearls of wisdom.
Born in 1917, in Hartford Connecticut, Landraitus
is the son of immigrant parents who managed to escape
Lithuania shortly before the upheavals bought on by
the Bolshevik revolution and WWI. He was eager to
live the American dream and showed little interest
in the ways of old Europe that were still so much
a part of the older generation. Instead, he boldly
struck out to live a life where free thinking and
forward looking, versus the traditions of heritage,
His talents as an artist blossomed throughout his
childhood, and after high school, he enrolled in the
Hartford Art School, now part of the University of
Hartford. Landraitis always wanted to be a sculptor
and the upper body strength he developed as a high
school track star would have suited him well. He was
strong and lean. He was not only able to walk around
on his hands, he even had the strength and balance
to walk up stairs in that position.
While a student, this slender, bespectacled, studious-looking
young man ran the schools art supply store where,
in addition to earning a decent income, he loved being
the center of attention. It was there that he caught
the eye of another student destined to become his
wife. After their graduation in 1940, he and Mary
Rita Keane married and set out to pursue their new
life together in the world of art.
Following his dreams to New York City and Chicago,
Landraitis became a seasoned artist. Believing he
would be drafted with the outbreak of WWII, he returned
to Connecticut so his wife and children could be near
"I fought the war from a mahogany desk,"
muses Landraitis. "I was a technical artist for
Pratt and Whitney," where he illustrated aircraft
engine maintenance manuals in support of the war effort.
Over the next 15 years, Landraitis established himself
as a premier artist. During that time, children Charles,
Joan, Rob and Paul were born, and they quickly learned
and embraced the values and visions of their father
as they grew up. Memories of painted faces at Halloween,
snowmen who looked more like Marilyn Monroe than Frosty,
and their fathers observations of nature and
his appreciation of the unusual and beautiful inspired
them as they matured.
Charlie, the oldest of the children, is an associate
professor of mathematics at Boston College and remembers
his fathers creative talents around the house.
"We had a summer cottage on Amston Lake where
dad loved to fish and play horseshoes, outperforming
He also loved cars and some of his more interesting
acquisitions were several Studebakers, a 55
Chevy Nomad wagon, and a sporty British Rover sedan,
Englands equivalent to the Edsel.
"I can remember a number of times when the wood-grained
shifter knob came off in his hand while driving,"
laughed Charlie, "and that was just one of its
"Being the only daughter, I was expected to be
lady-like, a hard thing to do with three brothers,"
recalls Joan Landraitis Navin. "I can remember
wanting to keep up with them in sports while also
being quite competitive in school."
After getting her B.A. in child development from St.
Josephs College and her masters degree in counseling
at Western Oregon State University, Navin pursued
vocations as a teacher and a school counselor, but
eventually followed her talented father into the arts.
While staying home to raise her children, Navin discovered
she loved photography. She honed her photographic
skills through studies at the University of San Diego,
Dickinson College and Penn State University. Navin
now has a thriving business doing outdoor fine art
prints and her own line of photo note greeting cards.
"Having a business somewhat similar to dads
has led to many lively and helpful discussions over
the years and has given us a way to know each other
better as adults."
After moving to Florida, Landraitis continued to paint
both watercolors and oils, and also became an avid
photographer, frequently developing his own film.
His kids treasure the watercolor landscapes and fanciful
caricatures of the people he painted. While residing
in one of the Cortez Village fishing cottages and
local stores. Landraitis has always been an avid horseshoe
player and one of his more whimsical paintings adorns
the equipment shed at the Anna Maria horseshoe pits.
During a night out with longtime horseshoe friend,
Jack Cooper, Landraitis drew a picture of a pelican
throwing a horseshoe. Jack took it home and brought
it to life in a wood carving likeness that is now
the players revered Champions Trophy.
His second son, Rob, still lives in Hartford, where
hes a used car sales manager with over 25 years
in the business.
"Id go to his office on Saturday mornings
just so I could watch him draw," Rob said. Afterwards,
wed go shoot some pool and it was really cool
to just hang out with him after hed worked all
The walls of Robs home are a mini-gallery of
his dads art work, and in his younger days,
Rob illustrated for his school newspaper and several
newsletters. Knee replacement surgery, during his
early 40s has slowed Rob down a bit but he draws every
morning for 30 minutes before work during his physical
"Dad was my fishing buddy. I remember taking
one of his new fishing rods and on my first cast,
the reel fell off into the lake. I was able to retrieve
it, clean it up but I never did tell Dad about it."
Oops cats out of the bag now, Rob.
Youngest son Paul continues his fathers legacy
of forward thinking as a partner at Integral Development
Associates, a successful Washington state think tank
specializing in a new generation of applied philosophy
and psychology called Integral Theory.
"I can remember dad whistling while he worked,
absorbed in an illustration or portrait for hours
on end," recalled Paul. "Before the psychology
of flow was ever named and researched, dad spent significant
portions of his work-life in that creative, undistracted,
enjoyable state of full engagement with challenging
and meaningful work."
He also remembers his days at the summer cottage.
"Dad built a wall from the fieldstone on our
property. He loved to fit the stones together. To
him it was like playing a beautiful natural jigsaw
puzzle. After sitting and painting or drawing for
long hours in his city office, hed released
his tensions by hauling stones to make something functional
When asked why he chose the economic uncertainty as
an independent over the security of corporate America,
Landraitis replied, "Ive watched friends
working for years under a boss they hate; it is very
sad. If a client is too big of a jerk, I am free to
fire him and move on. I dont think it is worth
getting an ulcer to have a little more certainty about
where your next paycheck is coming from."
When asked about his greatest success, Landraitis
answer was short, "My children. Im blessed
with great kids.
The 90-year old Landraitis shared his secrets to longevity.
"First, be your own person. Give away the best
of yourself every day, especially love and empathy
to your fellow man. In order to have friends, you
have to be a friend first."
His beliefs and love of mankind are the underpinnings
of the fellowship Ive found to be so prevalent
among the horseshoers. And while his game is not as
sharp as it once was, Landraitis takes great pride
when finding himself in the playoffs or the winners
"I can still show these young whipper-snappers
a thing or two," he said.