SUN PHOTOS/TOM VAUGHT
Thousands of people fill Coquina Beach for the Labor Day holiday, thanks to an abundance of sunshine and a lack of rain.
By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer
BRADENTON BEACH – Up north, they close down the public outdoor swimming pools right after Labor Day. Down here, we go to the beach knowing cooler weather could be months away.
The holiday weekend featured everything from clearance sales at the malls to wall-to-wall boats at the favorite anchorages, but in Bradenton Beach it was time to celebrate with the first festival of the season.
The End of Summer Festival on Bridge Street was a huge success with an estimated 2,500 people braving the heat to shop the booths, sample local food, quaff cold ones and dance to the music.
Sponsored by the Bridge Street Merchants Association, the festival featured a large play area for the kids, a place to hold a crocodile on your lap, a myriad of local treats for the palate and arts and crafts from around the area. And don’t forget the merchants who opened their doors to the crowds offering counters and shelves of unique merchandise in air conditioned comfort.
A portion of the proceeds from the festival will go toward the Annie Silver Community Center, and one of the merchants who spent time making sure the event ran smoothly, Tjet Martin of Linger Longer Resort, was glad to keep it in the family.
"I’m very proud of what we did last weekend and I’m proud that the money will go to the community center," she said. "It went for a good cause."
Organizers were still counting the proceeds Tuesday and a total was not available by press time.
Meanwhile, the beaches were packed as expected afternoon thunderstorms failed to materialize. At Coquina Beach, a lot of cars crowded into the parking lot but nobody was cruising or hanging around the lot. It was the first big beach holiday since the county reconfigured the parking lot in reaction to a gang-related shooting in the parking lot on Easter.
Bradenton Beach Police Lieutenant John Cosby said the new parking configuration seemed to work better, but a lifeguard said the true test has yet to come.
"The only way to judge it is to wait until next Easter," said Captain Joe Westerman in the lifeguard tower on Monday. "That’s the holiday that seems to bring the bad elements out so we’ll have to wait until then to see if they return or go elsewhere."
Westerman estimated the crowd at the beach Monday at between 12,000 and 13,000 and the only incidents there were a warrant arrest and a couple of arrests for driving with suspended licenses.
There were the usual ambulance runs to the beaches on the Island for minor scrapes and one man who had a medical emergency Saturday. Lifeguards said there were complaints of jellyfish stings Saturday as a school of the creatures apparently floated up the Island’s coastline toward Anna Maria. Beach walkers there reported a number of jellyfish had washed ashore Sunday morning.