By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer
BRADENTON BEACH - They came by land and sea to celebrate the season on both sides of the bay last Saturday.
Historic Bridge Street celebrated the holidays with open doors, raffles, an auction and a refurbished pier that served as the perfect observation point for the Cortez Boat Parade. Once again, the Bridge Street Merchants Association made sure their Christmas Prelude celebration coincided with the Cortez Yacht Club's Lighted Boat Parade, sponsored by the Anna Maria Island Sun, and the weather was perfect.
The newly opened Rotten Ralph's restaurant on the pier was brimming with people who came to enjoy dinner and watch the parade from the outside deck. Those tables went first and the diners inside the restaurant joined them and a few hundred other people to watch the 12 boats sail from the Seafood Shack south and turn around short of the Longboat Pass Bridge to return.
The colorful boats drew oohs and aahs from the crowd on the pier. The winning craft were Lucky Lynn for under 20 feet with a special acknowledgement; Jim Hammond's Richette for 20-29 feet ($100); Cortez Kat piloted by Ryan David for 30-39 feet (100); Adeline piloted by George Carter ($100); and best overall winning $500 was Tranquility, piloted by Stephen Evans.
Other entrants were Nellie, piloted by Laura Ritter; Capt. George Glaser's Mystic Dolphin; DaBoat, piloted by Jon and Wendy Holcomb; Shanadale, with Pat Kranus; Baja, with Capt. Cadmus; Christopher Cunningham's Crossroads; and late entry Lucky Lynn, whose captain was unknown.
Back on Bridge Street, Santa and Mrs. Claus were there, but Santa was not wearing his red suit this year. He said he decided that a tropical shirt with big red flowers and shorts were more appropriate, and who wants to sit on a sweaty SantaÕs lap anyway? He did wear his red hat. Mrs. Claus wore a white blouse with a stylish red apron.
The bell ringers from the Kiwanis Club were at the entrance of the pier parking lot raising money for the Salvation Army. Disc jockey Scott Barr played seasonal music before giving up the stage to local musical guru Jimi Gee and his kids. Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce President Mary Ann Brockman sold raffle tickets for fun prizes. Event organizers Tjet Martin, Chiles Group marketing manager Caryn Hodge, Bridge Walk marketing manager Linda Haack and Bridge Street Bazaar co-owner Jake Spooner and manager Dana Snell also sold raffle tickets and took bids on wreaths that were donated by Island businesses.
This was the first celebration on Bridge Street since the pier reopened, and there were a couple of first-time snafus, but the organizers took the problems with a smile and made the best of the situation.
The first problem was the lighting in the pier parking lot. While the bell tower was brightly lit, they did not make arrangements for lighting the tables set up in the parking lot to sell raffle tickets and display the merchandise and wreaths. Somebody found a, solution and as the sun set, the hands holding flashlights rose to light the area. It was a learning experience.
Another problem came during the tree lighting ceremony. In a Chevy Chase "Christmas Vacation" moment, nothing happened when Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce put the plug into the socket. They tracked down the culprit, a bad breaker, and the tree next to the Bridge Street Bazaar came alive with lights, but Pierce fooled everyone by pulling out the plug, saying it had gone out again.
Two of the items being raffled were children's bicycles and Barbara Siwa won both of them. She said that she knew of a place that gives bikes to children whose families cannot afford them and would donate them.
It was Christmas 2007 on both sides of the bay.