SUN PHOTO Despite the crowds, above,
visitors still could find some pockets of privacy on the beaches..
Labor Day is traditionally known as the end of summer up north as people turn their attention to school, changing leaves, cooler temperatures, Halloween and the year’s end holidays.
On Anna Maria, it means one more time at the beach for people who live close enough to drive, but too far to call it home.
The Island is a popular destination for day travelers during three-day weekends.
Julie Perkins and Melissa Porter made an easy drive to Holmes Beach from Lakeland. Riverview residents Arty and Sharlene Mazza planned to drive to the Island every day during Labor Day weekend. “It’s only about 40 minutes,” Sharlene Mazza said. “Not that far.”
Tampa residents Laura and Matthew Cooper come to Anna Maria Island twice a year, for Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend. Why Anna Maria?
“The beach!” they said simultaneously.
Restaurants, listed in many visitor surveys as a major attraction and recently praised by the New York Times, aren’t on their list.
“We’re not here for the restaurants,” they said. “We can eat at home. But we don’t have this.”
This year, Mother Nature made sure the beaches were at their best.
“The Gulf has been good,” said Captain Joe Westerman, a lifeguard at Coquina Beach, Monday. “No surf; no waves, the water is flat and it’s gorgeous.
“We’ve had a great family presence this year,” he added. “I think it’s because we’ve had mounted sheriff’s deputies and a lot of police to make sure the families know we’ve got things under patrol.
The Labor Day weekend marks the start of a slow month for tourism, with Anna Maria Island accommodations only a third full on average during the last three Septembers. Most of them are “staycationers,” or tourists from Florida, according to the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
“We had a good Labor Day weekend,” said David Teitelbaum, manager of Tortuga Inn and Trade Winds Resort, both in Bradenton Beach. “We had a lot of rain the past three weeks, but it stayed away over the Labor Day weekend and we were full in Tortuga Inn and 75 percent full at Trade Winds.”
Mark Davis, who manages the Harrington House in Holmes Beach, said things are normal.
“We were full all three days of the holiday weekend,” he said. “We’re normally full for the Labor Day weekend.”
Those Labor Day beach-goers who don’t rent rooms will catch a snack, especially if it’s near the beach and cold.
“It’s been very busy,” said Joanne Spallino, co-owner of Joe’s Eats and Sweets in Bradenton Beach. “This has been may one of our best Labor Days.”
Joe’s Eats and Sweets offers meals as well as a variety of ice cream and other cold confections.
One factor that plays a part in the Labor Weekend traffic is school. This week marked the opening of school in some northern districts and families make the weekend a last chance to enjoy a beach situation. It also affects the mainlanders in Manatee County who come out.
“On Sunday, everyone stayed to watch the sunset,” Westerman said. “On Monday, everyone packed up and left around mid-afternoon so they could get their kids ready for school.”