PHOTO/CHRIS GRUMLEY The BeachHouse restaurant
offered a dazzling fireworks display Friday night,
while the Sandbar and MarVista had shows on Saturday.
Motel rooms, restaurants, businesses and roads were full of fireworks and parade fans over the Fourth of July weekend.
The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce was hopping on Thursday before the three-day weekend, fielding requests for accommodations from more than 50 people by noon, according to administrative assistant Deb Wing.
"People were trying to find last minute places to stay," she said, adding that all the Chamber member accommodations were booked except for a few cancellations.
Heavy rains last week also drove people to the Chamber to request indoor activities; they were referred to local shops and they were referred to local shops and attractions, she said. Skies cleared by Friday, when the first fireworks display was launched.
The three restaurants that offered fireworks and special dinner packages sold out early, said Steve Ananicz, chief operating officer for the Chiles Group of restaurants.
The BeachHouse and Sandbar on Anna Maria Island were sold out early in the week and Mar Vista on Longboat Key, which held its first fireworks display this year, was nearly full by Thursday, he said.
Business at all three restaurants has been up every month this year over last year, he said, attributing the trend to the "staycation," where Florida residents vacation near home.
Anywhere near the water, "It feels like you’ve gone 1,000 miles away in 20 minutes," Ananicz said.
Anna Maria Island summers typically draw visitors from within driving distance, and this year, the slow economy may have prompted even more Floridians than usual to drive to the beach rather than fly to more expensive destinations.
People are not as cautious as they were this time last year, said Barbara Rodocker, a Manatee County Tourist Development Council member and manager at Bridgewalk and Silver Surf in Bradenton Beach, where bookings also were brisk.
"It should be fun and profitable for everybody," she said.