The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 26 - March 25, 2009


Season booms despite economy
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE Beachgoers bound for Anna Maria Island on
Cortez Road last Saturday slowed to a crawl at the bridge, far
outnumbering people leaving the Island. This tourist season
is "fantastic" and "going gangbusters," locals say.

It looks to be a winning tourist season on the Island, according to local enterprises.

With snowbirds, spring breakers and local sun worshippers arriving daily, a few minutes crawling across the Manatee Avenue or Cortez Road bridges or inching along Gulf Drive tells the story.

"It’s going gangbusters," said Mary Ann Brockman, President of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, where more than 2,900 people came for information in January, followed by more than 2,600 in February. More than 42,000 visited the website in January, and more than 25,000 visited in February.

Recent articles in Southern Living magazine and USA Today helped fuel the influx of visitors, she said.

Publix, the only full-service grocery store on the Island, is doing well, Brockman said, as are the waterfront restaurants, such as the Gulf Drive Café, BeachHouse, Sandbar, Waterfront, Rod n’ Reel Pier and Rotten Ralph’s.

Feeling Swell Surf Bar and Grill, newly-opened at 9903 Gulf Drive in Anna Maria, reports brisk business both in the restaurant and in standup paddleboard rentals, its sideline.

At Paradise Café in Holmes Beach, business has been tremendous, according to owner Jackie Estes.

"I was nervous. We were braced for people not coming because of the economy, but this island is rocking," said Estes, adding that her café served 30 dozen bagels and 150 orders of pancakes on Sunday, a record busy day. "They were out the door, sitting on the sidewalk. It’s our best season ever in 14 years."

The Island Players is hopping, too. By opening night last Thursday, the theater had only three seats left for the first week of its current production, “Sylvia.”

It’s been so busy that some people trying to get to the Anna Maria Island Art League’s Springfest on March 14-15 turned around before they made it to Holmes Beach City Hall park, Director Joyce Karp said.

"It was very busy Saturday and part of Sunday," until the St. Patrick’s Day parade lured people to its venue, she said, adding that vendors reported sales as fair to good.


Vacation rentals, meanwhile, have been extremely strong for even a good economy, much less one in recession.

"It’s been a fantastic season," with many returning visitors from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Minnesota, said rental agent Ann Caron of Island Vacation Properties. After cancellations last fall, rental reservations – many of them last-minute bookings – began picking up, and turned the season into one of the best in the past five years, she said.

"We have booked more units for next year than I ever remember," she said, adding that people are already asking about 2011. "We don’t go that far in advance.”

Some aspects of the Island’s economy, however, mirror that of the rest of the nation.

Real estate sales are up slightly at Island Vacation Properties, with half a dozen closings so far this year, mostly cash deals, Caron said.

But statistics show that property sales for January and February on the Island are slower than they have been in more than 15 years, said Dale Friedley of the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office.

"You have to go back to 1993 to get two months with that few sales," he said.

On Anna Maria Island, three single family homes sold in January at an average price of $1,063,333, and four sold in February at an average price of $651,250; four condos sold in January at an average price of $460,875, and nine sold in February at an average price of $332,556; and three duplexes sold in January at an average price of $473,333, according to property appraiser records.

In Manatee County, 160 single family homes sold in January and 155 sold in February; 65 condos sold in January and 57 sold in February; and six duplexes sold in January and two duplexes sold in February, according to property appraiser records.

Likewise, single-family housing starts since the first of the year on the Island are minimal, with Bradenton Beach reporting none, Holmes Beach reporting one, and Anna Maria reporting four.

While sales and construction are slow, hotel occupancy since the first of the year is higher than this time last year. In January and February, occupancy was 44.2 percent and 66.6 percent respectively, according to the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Silver Surf and Bridgewalk resorts in Bradenton Beach are doing "extremely well," said manager Barbara Rodocker, a member of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council.

"It’s better than last year," she said, adding that she expects about the same number of people through Easter. "Summer’s going to be maybe a little different than other years because of the economy, but those who are willing to stick in there and do what they need to do will be fine."

Bradenton Beach going green
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Sarah Hoffman records what she saw during a walk through
Leffis Key as part of a nature journaling class.

BRADENTON BEACH – Eco week 2009 attracted the serious and the curious to learn about and participate in the resurrection and preservation of our planet’s health.

Eco Week was sponsored by the city of Bradenton Beach Projects/Programs Department, The Anna Maria Island Sun, Bridge Street Bazaar, Big Olaf Iced Cream, Florida Power and Light, Publix, Cozzette Accounting Corp. and Mote Marine Laboratory. It began with a nature journaling course at Leffis Key on Wednesday, March 18. Thursday was Green Day featuring a Greening Your Business seminar in the morning and a Greening Your Life seminar in the afternoon, both hosted by Nancy Sloan, executive director of Sarasota Green Connections, and Marie Anne Bowie, owner of Sarasota Green Marketplace.

Frank O’Neil, a building official from Ft. Myers, drove up to attend the seminars. He said he was trying to assemble a green consortium for the Ft. Myers-Naples areas. Bradenton Beach resident Pat Gentry, a volunteer for VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), attended as did Rhoda A’Ambra, a Bradenton Beach resident who is an inspector with the Bradenton Fire Department.

Bowie spoke about how many groups were coming together to provide information for business owners who want to go green.

"You need to tie your bottom-line profit with people, planet and profit," she said. "You have to have a sustainable vision that ties together social, environmental and economic goals."

She cited the Earth Charter, a document that includes 16 points for our sustainable future. She said that Co-op America, now known as Green America, is trying to become a clearinghouse of companies that offer environmentally sound products.

She said that while many business owners want to become certified as green, there is no universal set of values for certification. She said that being green also includes working for social justice and a sustainable economy.

Planting native

On Thursday evening, Island native landscape expert Mike Miller spoke to a group that included people from Bradenton. He said that his goal is to catalogue native plants for different areas because there are as many as 80 in Florida. He will speak at a Green World Café seminar on Monday, April 13, 7 to 9 p.m. at Bayfront Community Center, 803 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.

Christine Callahan concluded the weekday events with a seminar on rain barrels to collect rainwater and provide irrigation for your yard. Ten people got a free rain barrel kit.

On Saturday, the annual Eco Expo was held, offering information and products for a simpler, more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Corona trial postponed

BRADENTON – The jury trial of Robert Corona was postponed on Monday when his attorney, Thomas Ostrander, withdrew from the case, citing a conflict of interest with another client, William Cumber.

Corona, 38, was arrested by a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy for theft of the car of missing Holmes Beach motel owner Sabine Musil-Buehler on Nov. 6, two days after her boyfriend, Cumber, reported seeing her last, according to sheriff’s office reports.

Corona told investigators that the missing woman had been in the car with him, but later recanted the story and said he took the car from the parking lot of a 14th Street bar.

Investigators reported that her blood was found in the car four days later.

Corona, who is no longer the focus of Musil-Buehler’s disappearance, is charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle, a third degree felony, no valid driver license, a second degree misdemeanor, and resisting, obstructing or opposing an officer, a first degree misdemeanor.

Cumber, 39, formerly of Anna Maria Island, is a suspect but has not been charged in either the disappearance or the suspected arson of a portion of Musil-Beuhler’s motel on Nov. 16.

He faces violation of probation charges for leaving Manatee County without his probation officer’s consent, stemming from an arrest for driving with a suspended license in Marion County in December, according to court records.

He was serving probation for a 2006 arson conviction for setting fire to a former girlfriend’s house.

Prosecutors have offered Cumber 15 years incarceration in exchange for admitting the violation of probation, which Ostrander said is excessive. A hearing is set on the case on April 14.

To report information on Musil-Buehler’s disappearance or the fire, call the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at 747-3011 or the West Manatee Fire Rescue District at 741-3900.

Bridge hearing Thursday

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will host the final public hearing on the Anna Maria Island Bridge Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study on Thursday, March 26, at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach. An informal open house will begin at 6 p.m. and the formal public hearing, consisting of a presentation by FDOT on the project and its associated impacts followed by public comment, will begin at 7 p.m.

The purpose of the study is to give FDOT documented information necessary for it to recommend one of the alternatives to the USCG for its approval. This public hearing will allow interested persons to express their views on the conceptual design, social, economic and environmental effects of the improvements.

In the first two meetings, a poll was taken on the preferred height of a replacement bridge and most preferred a 65-foot-high span.

‘Sylvia’ doggone good
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT From left to right: Diana Shoemaker,
as Sylvia; Joe Kerata, as Greg; and Mona Upp-Hartmann,
as Kate, in the Island Players’ performance of "Sylvia,"
|a comedy about a man and his dog living in New York City.

ANNA MARIA – It’s a credit to the Island Players’ production of "Sylvia" that 10 minutes into the first act, every dog owner in the house feels guilty about leaving his/her dog at home.

Diana Shoemaker plays the lead role, a homeless Labrador/poodle mix that latches onto Greg (Joe Kerata) in a New York City park one day. Shoemaker taps into her inner dog so well that soon the audience forgets she’s a human being and accepts Greg scratching her behind the ears and rubbing her tummy. And she does it without resorting to romping on all fours, although she does a splendid standup impression of "getting her messages" by sniffing the bushes in the park.

If the play had not been so good, concerned dog owners might have rushed out the door at intermission after hearing her sing the heartbreaking "Every Time We Say Goodbye" when her master leaves her alone in the house.

Kerata is convincing as a midlife man nursing a harmless infatuation with his new dog, that has given him a new leash on life as his career winds down. Despite warnings by his dog park friend Tom, played like a New Yorker by Herb Stump, he begins to think of Sylvia not as a dog, but as a person.

Greg’s wife, Kate (Mona Upp-Hartmann), is not amused, as Sylvia draws the affection and spare time of her previously attentive husband and begins to stand in the way of their relationship and her rising career.

Her drinking scene with uptown girlfriend Phyllis, played like a purebred by Mary Jo Johnson, is especially funny. And Laura Morales as gender bender psychiatrist Leslie reminds dog lovers that pets are the best therapists after all.

Pet-friendly theme notwithstanding, the language in Sylvia is not intended for children.

Sylvia runs through April 5. For more information, call the box office at 778-5755.

Breezy, sneezy, wheezy days of spring are here

Just when you’re ready to spend all day outside enjoying the warm, breezy spring, your friendly neighborhood allergy doctor is telling you to stay inside with the air conditioning on.

For those with allergies and asthma, it’s a prescription to consider, because this is a record high pollen season, according to the National Allergy Bureau.

That warm spring breeze carries tree pollen, at its worst from February through April, said Bradenton allergy specialist and Island resident Dr. Roger Danziger. And the current drought hasn’t helped, with no rain to wash pollen out of the air.

"The weather is nice and you’d like to keep the windows open," he said. "Don’t."

But people can’t lock themselves indoors, he acknowledged, and relief is available.

Take your medicine

Over the counter antihistamines like Claritin and Zyrtec can be effective, Danziger said. So can decongestants like Sudafed, but be aware that it can raise blood pressure and is a stimulant, he added.

If those don’t help, see a doctor or allergy specialist; they can offer prescription steroid nasal sprays like Flonase or Nasonex that can safely be used for weeks or months, and do not cause dependence like over-the-counter Afrin nasal spray, he said. Prescription pill Singulair also has been approved for sinus symptoms, he said.

Serious allergy cases may require skin testing and allergy injections, weekly at first, then monthly, probably for three to five years, and with a three- to five-month delay in relief, so it’s too late for this severe pollen season.

Visitor tips

Snowbirds report that their allergies seem to get worse each time they return to Florida, Danziger said, explaining that each year, the immune system becomes weaker due to the previous exposure to allergens.

Travelers should bring plenty of their medications with them, and invest $1 in a NIOSH N-95 face mask, suggested Jeff May of Massachusetts-based May Indoor Air Investigations, author of "My House is Killing Me!"

"They’re effective filters for planes, where people may have allergens on their clothing," he said.

Ask for a rental car with a cabin air filter to avoid contaminated car air conditioners, he suggested, and travel with a dust mite pillow cover for hotel pillows. Always ask for pillows with no feathers.

General tips

• Keep windows closed and run the air conditioner;
• Run a dehumidifier to eliminate moisture in the air; moisture feeds dust mites;
• Avoid outdoor activities on hot, windy, sunny days when pollen is high;
• Use a HEPA air filter to help clean pollen, mold, animal dander and dust mites out of the air, and change the filter once a month;
• Replace carpets with wood, tile or vinyl and mop the floor often;
• Spray carpets with an anti-allergen product that kills dust mites, or steam clean often;
• Use a vacuum designed to trap dust particles;
• Remove clutter, books, and decorative objects, which collect dust and pollen;
• Encase your mattress and pillows in allergen-proof covers to create a barrier between you and dust mites;
• Use pillows filled with polyester instead of feathers;
• Bathe pets regularly if they come indoors, and keep them off the bed;
• Wash your hair daily to remove pollen;
• At home, remove your shoes at the door and change your clothes to avoid spreading allergens inside;
• Wash clothes in hot water before wearing them again and do not line dry, as pollen will collect on fabric;
• Wash all bedding in very hot water (over 130 degrees Fahrenheit) once a week to kill dust mites;
• Limit indoor plants, which encourage mold;
• Wear a protective mask when gardening or doing yard work;
• Keep your lawn trimmed to two inches to keep it from going to seed and plant colorful flowers, which produce less pollen.

Sources: My Xperts program at; Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.


Festive atmosphere marks Tour of Homes
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Donna Trognitz and Molly Maxwell, of Pennsylvania, present
their tour tickets to Ruth Burkhead and Nancy Hauschild.

The 16th Annual AMI Tour of Homes was another successful event for the Island Community Center with 800 people participating to raise $22,646 to date to fund the Center’s programs and services.

It was a festive atmosphere as "tour-ists" waited in the Roser Church parking lot for the shuttle to take them to the three homes on the Island’s north end. Another shuttle at Crosspointe Fellowship took visitors to the remaining three homes.

"I go every year," Mary Manio, of Anna Maria, said. "It’s a wonderful thing to do on a Saturday afternoon."

Her friend, Carol Fasolo, visiting from Venice, said it was her first Island home tour.

Roberta Kaminsky, of Bradenton, pointed out, "It’s always interesting to see the different homes and the personalities they reflect. We make this a yearly outing. The whole feeling of the Island has changed so much through the years and I like to see the changes."

"I have a background in interior design, and I love going to these homes to get ideas," Jeanette Parrett, of Bradenton, explained. "They’ve taken these little cottages and changed them so much."

Ellen Peters, of Homes Beach and Michigan, also a yearly participant, said, "The Florida décor is so different. I love to see how people decorate."

Several of the homes had beach themes with green, blue, coral, tan, cream, aqua and yellow as the dominant colors conjuring up visions of the sand, the sea and sunsets. Accents included shells, fish, palm trees and birds.

Some features that people particularly liked were an upstairs deck with the feel of a tree house, a swimming pool with a rock waterfall, a boat-shaped outdoor bar, a double glass block shower, an outdoor kitchen and a mosaic tile entry porch.

The Tropical Treasures Boutique was lively place with shoppers snapping up baked goods and crafts made by the tour committee as volunteers sold quilt raffle tickets. At 3 p.m., the quilt’s lucky winner, Sally York, was announced. Following the tour, many gathered at the Waterfront restaurant to enjoy wine and cheese.

"It was an extremely successful tour," Center Business Manager Sandee Pruett said. "We want to acknowledge and thank our sponsors, especially Spivey’s Construction, our corporate sponsor; Jim Mixon Insurance, our program book sponsor; and Pineapple Fish, LLC, our boutique sponsor."

Springtime brings nesting birds to beaches
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

White pelicans from northern climes paddle in the chilly Intracoastal
Waterway while native brown pelicans soak up the sun on

Anna Maria Island is a haven for birds and bird lovers.

Each spring, the beaches are transformed into nesting areas for three imperiled bird species. The least tern and the snowy plover – both threatened – and the black skimmer, a species of special concern, all nest on the ground, so the nesting areas are roped off to keep beachgoers from accidentally trampling the sand-colored eggs.

Snowy plover parents protect chicks from big bird predators with a classic plover ploy you might be lucky enough to witness. To distract predators, one parent races away from the nest on foot while the other heads in the other direction, pretending to have a broken wing and dragging itself along in the sand with a few flailing moves tossed in to mimic distress.

It’s best to keep your distance from the nesting areas, as parents may abandon nests when frightened.

And don’t fall for the black skimmers that play possum on the beach. When they lay flat on the ground with their heads stretched out in front of them, looking very dead, they’re only resting. They’re the birds that coast along the shallow water with their beaks wide open, scooping up dinner.

Those pink birds flying overhead are probably not flamingos, but roseate spoonbills, with flat duck-like beaks. The tiny birds that run on high speed back and forth in the surfline may look like baby seagulls, but actually are sandpipers. And deafening squawks usually are thanks to flocks of wild parakeets, which feed on sea oats.

While it may be tempting to feed the birds, wildlife officials say it’s not good for them. In fact, the law prohibits feeding brown pelicans, because they have become overly dependent on people who give them fish at docks. They often dive for fish while they’re still on the hook, injuring themselves.

To keep seagulls from turning into extras in a Hitchcock movie, avoid feeding them, too. When they begin to associate people with food, they lose their fear and swoop in and snatch anything people – or children – are holding.

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