The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 11 - December 9, 2009


Sister city wins gold for flowers

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

A suburb of Moosekirchen; flowers adorn a home in the residential area.

Mooskirchen, Austria, the sister city of Holmes Beach, has been awarded a gold medal in the annual European Floral Competition, Entente Florale Europe.

The competition was founded 25 years ago and is sponsored by the European Association for Flowers and Landscape. Its purpose is the improvement of the quality of life for urban and village communities.

City officials, private organizations and individuals are encouraged to beautify their towns and villages in order to improve the quality of life by planting flowers and shrubs, developing and maintaining green spaces and parks and fostering development which is ecologically and environmentally sensitive.

It is open to all countries in the EU and there are two categories – villages, with a population up to 10,000, and towns, with a population of 10,001 or more. Mooskirchen with 2,100 people is in the village category.

They are judged on vegetation and landscape, environment and free time and tourism. This year, Mooskirchen received one of nine gold medals. In addition, 13 silver and two bronze medals were awarded.

Mooskirchen also was named the Most Beautiful Flower Village of Styria in 2000 and 2005. The village is in the province of Styria.

Holmes Beach became sister city to Mooskirchen through the efforts of Chuck Stealey and Michael Schwab, who met more than 20 years ago as ham radio operators. The pair thought of the sister city idea five years ago over cocktails at the Sandbar.

In 2006, both mayors signed proclamations and gifts were exchanged, making the union official.

'Montooth and the Canfield Witch' a winner

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Every once in a while, a novel is written that strikes a chord with readers of all ages.

“Montooth and the Canfield Witch” by Robert Jay is just such a novel. It tells a story that will resonate with readers of all ages and all backgrounds.

Meet Catherine “Carty” Andersson, and you meet the innocence and promise of a childhood in a cleaner, less equivocal moral time.

Carty and her gang, “The Crew,” which consists of Blake Holmes, Mack Stein, a recent German-Jewish immigrant to Florida and Hale Wending, a leading student from a large black family.

They are all located in Winter Free, Florida where adventures seem to crop up like kudzu.

“By mere chance, or maybe because of confused directions, but certainly not intentionally, Carty came upon the witch’s house at the edge of Morose Swamp.”

That’s the first sentence, and the plot races on from there.

In the classroom and out, in the house and in the wild swamp and countryside, Carty and her Crew are champions of righteousness as they finish their last year of elementary school.

Take Sally Canfield, the witch. She’s the last descendant of ancestors driven from Salem, Massachusetts during the witch trials in the 17th century. She’s feared by most of the Winter Free residents.

But when she needs rescuing, The Crew is stalwartly by her side, and they get a little help from Sally as well.

It’s the time of the Cuban revolution, and Cruz Cruz, a/k/a “The Cuban,” makes a fine bad guy for Carty and her friends to battle.

Add in Montooth, an enormous alligator with a one large, misplaced tooth, who lives in Duck Lake and protects ducks, and you have the treat of a fable, a story within the story that details Montooth’s origins.

The story is set in Florida, and the use of a classroom project to find native plants makes a marvelous vehicle for describing Florida flora and the extremes to which The Crew had to go to secure the specimens.

“They had to wait out one mid-sized alligator and circle around a nasty mess of cottonmouths, but their search was safe and successful. The six specimens the pair found were not uncommon, but were those that grew in the more accessible locations, including an insectivore, a rootless bladderwort (Utricularia floridana).

“Carty had found only two, but hers were among the rarer varieties on the list: a Florida spiny pod (Matelea floridana) and a Florida coontie (Zamia pumila). ‘Do you remember Mrs. Tyron telling us in the early Florida history, some of the coonties were used as food by the Indians?’ she asked Mack. ‘They don’t look very edible to me.’”

With some nasty classmates trying to win the native specimen contest for the school, The Crew has to counter the moves of some pretty nasty but typical schoolyard bullies.

While fending off the bullies, Carty and her friends have to do battle with some grown up psychopaths as they struggle to save Sally from Cruz Cruz and his henchmen.

Even Montooth gets in on the act at this point in the story.

“Montooth and the Canfield Witch” moves with breakneck speed through the calmer, quieter culture of 1950s rural Florida.

It was written to appeal to young readers, but everyone who’s picked it up, adults and kids alike, have been caught up in the tale which makes for thoroughly enjoyable reading.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper