The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 20 - February 16, 2011


Island hopes for tourism rebound

Harry Stoltzfus
Tourism officials are hoping that stunning
sunsets such as this recent gem lure tourists
from around the globe to the Island and
help the local economy recover from
last year's poor season.

High season has begun, and should be a good one thanks to a harsh northern winter and a late Easter, the Manatee County Tourist Development Council learned on Monday.

Severe winter weather is encouraging more visitors to head south, but flights are still being cancelled, said Michael Walley, of the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.

"People have pushed their vacations forward because they couldn't get out of the airport," said Bradenton Beach hotelier and council member David Teitelbaum, adding that he expects tourism to pick up as a result.

The season may last a bit longer with people rescheduling flights and with Easter, traditionally the end of the season, falling on April 24, council members noted.Tourists began arriving right on schedule, around Feb. 10, said Bradenton Beach hotelier and council member Barbara Rodocker, adding, "It's got to be a better year than last year."

A particularly cold Florida winter in 2010 and the April-July oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico made it a tough year, said Walter Klages of Research Data Services, the county's tourism consultant.

Tourism was up only slightly – 1 percent – during the last quarter of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009, with 91,200 visitors to Manatee County from October through December, and direct expenditures were nearly 3 percent higher than 2009, according to Klages.

Most visitors came from Florida, 28 percent, and Europe, 21 percent, followed by the Northeast, 16 percent, and the Midwest, 15 percent.

Hotel occupancy hovered at or just below 50 percent during the quarter, while average daily hotel rates ranged from $116 to $120, with little change from 2009.

The average visit lasted 8.7 days, down only slightly from 9 days in 2009. The average number of people (average age 52) in each party remained stable at 2.8, with nearly 23 percent visiting for the first time.

Nearly 84 percent got their travel information from the Internet.

The beach and dining out were listed as the most popular activities, with the Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach ranking as the fourth most visited attraction behind St. Armands Circle, Prime Outlets Ellenton and Tampa Bay attractions.

Manatee County tourist tax collections for December 2010 totaled $347,173, with Anna Maria Island cities collecting 34 percent of the total (Anna Maria, $11,122; Bradenton Beach, $36,196; Holmes Beach, $69,523. In January 2011, the Island accounted for nearly 40 percent of the county's $415,217 in tourist tax collections, according to Klages' report.

This year is looking better so far, he said.

"The season is beginning to build well. The first quarter of 2011 is going to be good one," Klages said.

Anna Maria Island was featured on the Discovery Channel on Feb. 12, which may boost tourism, according to Bradenton Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Manager Debbie Meihls. The video is online at Discovery media partner Florida Travel and Life magazine also features the Island in its February issue, and is running a sweepstakes with an Island vacation as the grand prize.

Conde Nast Traveler's February issue also features the Island, calling the bike paths the best in the state, Meihls said.

The Island also is mentioned as a wedding capital in the Destination Weddings and Honeymoons guide given out in Bloomingdale's in New York City, she added.

The council also learned about a new marketing effort to draw visitors to eastern Manatee County. Gulf Coast Agventure, a cooperative venture of Mixon Fruit Farm, Dakin Dairy, King Farm, Herrmann's Lipizzans (performing horses), Fiorelli Winery and other agricultural attractions, offers an alternative to the beach after too much sun or on cloudy days, promoters say.

Cortez fishing festival: Don't miss it
Carol Whitmore

Admission booths at this year's festival were
built by volunteers and look like the
bridge of a ship.

CORTEZ – Celebrate the sea and all it offers in the historic fishing village of Cortez at the 29th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival this weekend, Feb. 19 and 20 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The $2 admission charge (kids under 12 are free) benefits the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage and its 95-acre FISH Preserve, endorsed by someone who knows the sea as well as a Cortezian, Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

"Your FISH Preserve is very impressive," Cousteau wrote the FISH board. "Its economic value cannot be judged in terms of dollars alone. I have seen from many places around the world, communities like the fishing village of Cortez, suffering from the demise of the natural resources base on which they depend. Your project is an important reminder of the vital connections between nature and humanity."

Originally called Hunter's Point, Cortez has been a commercial fishing center for more than 115 years. In the late 19th century, a group of North Carolina fishermen migrated to the village and helped establish its fishing community. The village is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Florida Maritime Museum, a restored 1912 schoolhouse, will anchor the festival at Cortez Road and 119th Street West on the eastern end of the village, a change from years past. The museum will feature "Fair Winds and Following Seas," a maritime art exhibit featuring five members of the American Society of Marine Artists, Bill Farnsworth, Don Maitz, Val Sandell, Robert Semler and Hodges Soileau. Films about Cortez also will be presented at the museum, as well as the Banks marine collection of seashells and other marine life.

Festival goers can choose from 15 live bands on two stages, 50 artists and 20 food vendors, many featuring the local favorite – mullet.

New this year is a mechanical bronco bull ride, along with the popular children's petting zoo, marine environmental displays and informative talks about local history, seafood and fishing.

Parking is at the FISH Preserve south of Cortez Road with remote parking and shuttle bus transportation at the Cortez Commons parking lot at the corner of Cortez Road and 59th Street West in Bradenton, and at Coquina Beach Bayside on Anna Maria Island. Shuttle buses cost $1 each way.

For more information, visit

Music under the stars

ANNA MARIA – It's Friday and time to unwind. How about shopping, music and refreshments under the stars right here in paradise?

The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce presents the first of several Island Music Festivals on Friday, Feb. 18, from 5 to 10 p.m.

Catch the arts and crafts and other items for sale in the booths inside the empty field at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard. Grab a drink and dinner at the food court and check out the sounds.

DJ Chris Grumley, fresh from his performance as Lowerwatha in the Community Center's Mystery Play, will emcee three hot local bands.

The Island Rockers, alumni of Anna Maria Elementary School, start off the sounds with oldies older than they are from 5 to 6 p.m. Next up, Human Condition plays an eclectic mixture of music with meaning from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and Bootleg brings its popular sounds back home from 8 to 10 p.m.

It might be a week after Valentine's Day, but it isn't too late to dance up close with your honey.

The Island Music Festivals are held each month during season and into the summer, sponsored by the Anna Maria Island Sun and the Anna Maria Island Historical Society with BOC Productions supplying the sound system and Miller Electric the power. Proceeds go to the Chamber's scholarship fund and local not-for-profits. Contact event organizer Cindy Thompson for details at or the Chamber at 779-9412.

Come on out and enjoy the start of another weekend Island style – outdoors.

Friday Fest menu

Paradise Cafe: Hot Dogs and Chili

The Waterfront: Fish Taco

Philly's Finest: Stromboli, cheese-steaks and sticky buns

T & L BBQ: Ribs & Chicken

Homies BBQ Pig Gig: Hawaiian Pork Sandwich

Tylers Ice Cream

Miller Snack Foods


Green Village growing on AMI

ANNA MARIA — The Anna Maria Island Historic Green Village will be the first stop on a day long tour by the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy (FARE).

The AMI Historic Green Village is being developed by Lizzie Vann Thrasher in the 500 block of Pine Avenue.

It's been Vann Thrasher's goal for the project to preserve what's historic on the Island and to use the best technology to sustain the energy and water needs off the grid, and to do that while creating profitable, sustainable businesses.

"I want to showcase the best in sustainable design and technologies while maintaining the unique charm of our historic seaside community," she said.

Vann Thrasher is using the Rosedale Cottage, which was built in 1913, on the site, and she's also moved the Sears Cottage to the grounds of the Village. The Sears Cottage was built from plans that were sold through the Sears and Roebuck Catalog.

Part of the power for the Green Village will be supplied by solar panels on site and by additional solar panels Vann Thrasher installed on the roofs of Beach Bums at 427 Pine and the old garage just west of Beach Bums, both of which she owns.

So far, the panels already installed are generating so much power that Vann Thrasher is selling some of the excess back to Florida Power and Light.

Plans for water use on the property are also green. An underground cistern will be installed this week, beginning Wednesday.

Rainwater will be collected to be used for landscaping. Specially designed air conditioning equipment will be placed underground to take advantage of the cooler conditions. The units are more efficient than standard equipment and will require less power from the solar panels.

Vann Thrasher is working to create a new standard for sustainability – the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum site in Florida and the first Net Zero Energy spot in the United States.

The LEED mission statement is to encourage and accelerate global adaption of sustainable green building and development practices through rating systems that recognize projects that implement strategies for better health and performance.

The highest rating LEED award is platinum status. To date, no Florida commercial structure has been granted that highest status. Vann Thrasher wants her Historic Village to be the first. She's working to gain that status with each building on her site.

The Net Zero Energy designation means simply that when applied to a home or commercial building, more energy is being generated than is being consumed.

A number of people are helping Vann Thrasher develop the site in the 500 block of Pine Avenue. Among those people is Tom Stockebrand, who is widely considered to be the Island's "energy guru."

The group helping Vann Thrasher build green has been dubbed "the green team." Members of the green team will be offering tours of the site and sharing their vision for the completed space on the day of the event.

The AMI Historic Green Village leg of the FARE tour, which will be touring several sites in Manatee and Sarasota counties, will be from 9 to 9:45 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 18. Vann Thrasher said she's not yet ready to comment about what will go into each space in the Village, although she's hoping one will be a bakery.

The public is invited to attend the event.

Artists learn about pier centennial plans

ANNA MARIA – Members of Cultural Connections learned about plans for the city pier centennial, set for May 13 and 14, and their role in it at their meeting last week.

"On Friday, we have a parade from CrossPointe Fellowship to the pier and then speeches at the pier," Caryn Hodge, of the Chiles Group, explained. "On Saturday we have the Food and Wine on Pine event from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"Ed (Chiles) is underwriting this event the first year and then wants to turn it into an annual event, setting up a not-for-profit to give back to area causes. Ed's vision is to have a high-end event showcasing the best the area has to offer."

Hodge said there are four elements in Saturday's event – food, wine, art and music. There will be 25 to 30 restaurant booths and 15 wine booths and a beer garden; music, with individuals, duos or trios playing on porches along the street; and actors in costume, depicting local residents of the period.

Jane Coleman, the liaison from the pier centennial committee to the art groups, added, "At 4 p.m., everything moves toward the pier. There's going to be a founder's day type picnic at Bayfront Park, and a high-end dinner and fireworks on the pier."

Coleman said Saturday's art event includes artists on porches and in booths along the street, chalk art on the humpbacked bridges, decorated chairs on display and a children's area with crafts and games.

Joan Voyles, of Cultural Connections, said, "There will be a call to artists to apply. Let us work on the details."

Marsha Bard, of Cultural Connections, said 40 would be a good number of artists, and artists could demonstrate their work with different ones each hour.

Tommy Fagen, of the Studio, said there would be a display of city pier art and works from the plein air painters at the Studio that weekend.

Sarasota teen wins music competition
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


The Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra (AMMICO) has chosen Joy Chatzistamatis, of Sarasota, as the winner of its Annual Young Artists Solo Competition for Manatee and Sarasota county area musicians. She will perform with AMICCO on a series concert and was awarded a $500 cash prize.

Chatzistamatis says she wanted to play violin since before she can remember. She told her mother she wanted to learn when she first started talking. Shortly before her fourth birthday, she began lessons with Joyce Mizer at the Sarasota Suzuki School of Music. Ten years later, she is even more passionate about violin.

This is Chatzistamatis' fourth year with the Sarasota Youth Orchestra Program. She is a frequent soloist at University Parkway Bible Church and a member of the Sarasota Young Voices. Last summer, she attended the Flaine International Music Academy in France with her current teacher, Lena Cambis, Sarasota Orchestra member and director of the Sarasota Music Academy. Chatzistamatis is planning to attend again this summer. Chatzistamatis also is this year's winner of the Edward and Ida Wilkof Young Artists Concerto Competition and will perform with the Sarasota Orchestra on Feb. 28 at the "Side by Side: Thrill of a Lifetime Concert." She is an eighth-grade homeschooler and plans to major in music performance.

The bylaws of the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus & Orchestra (AMICCO) include in their statement of purpose the following important objective, "To foster the development of musically talented youth in the community." To achieve this goal, AMICCO started its annual Young Artists Solo Competition for 12- to 18-year-old musicians.

Commissioner upset about construction shut down

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioner Pat Morton said he felt the city's code enforcement department was overzealous when it shut down construction work on Martin Luther King Day.

"Construction workers cannot work on a holiday, but the city was open," Morton told the board. "One person complained about another, so code enforcement went to the house, knocked on the door and told them to stop work."

He said the workers were inside painting and putting doorknobs on cabinets and not creating any noise. He also said one contractor was shut down while others were not.

"I felt it was improper," he continued. "Those guys were inside and not causing a problem. They have to make a living. It's not fair to tell them not to work when the city employees were working."

However, Code Enforcement Officer Nancy Hall said when she was driving to work that morning, she observed construction work being performed and also received complaints once she arrived at the office.

"The code says any holiday, but I only ask them to shut down on federal holidays," she said. "Ten job sites got shut down that day."

Hall said she is preparing a summary of her actions on that day for commissioners.

Code question

According to the code under Unlawful Acts Enumerated, CD 30-7 and 8, Section 30-57 (6), Operating or causing the operation of any tools used in construction, drilling, repair, alteration or demolition work between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekdays; between 7 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. Monday on weekends or from 7 p.m. the night preceding a holiday until 7 a.m. the day following the holiday, except for emergency work by public service utilities.

"I don't think the answer to everything is to fix an ordinance," Commissioner John Monetti said. "Common sense should prevail."

He gave the example of the ordinance banning alcohol on the beach, but pointed out that during the summer there are hundreds of people on the beach discretely drinking wine. However, the city must have an ordinance to be able to stop a party that gets out of hand, he said.

"The code doesn't allow a contractor to work (on a holiday), but a homeowner can crank up a generator and spray wash his house," Mayor Rich Bohnenberger added.

Monetti said as liaison to the code enforcement department, he would talk to employees about the issue.

Parking proposal postponed

ANNA MARIA — A scheduled discussion of the parking plan for Pine Avenue that was to have taken place at the Feb. 10 city commission meeting was postponed.

Commissioners John Quam and Chuck Webb both had deaths in their families and were absent from the meeting.

"I apologize to those of you who came tonight to address this issue, but this is just something that's out of our control," Commission Vice Chair Jo Ann Mattick told members of the audience.

The remaining three commissioners heard the first reading of the ordinance that will govern parking on the street.

The Pine Avenue parking and pedestrian plan outlines head in parking on the owner's property with sidewalks between vehicles and the buildings for the sake of safety of pedestrians. The plan is designed only for Pine Avenue in the city's residential/office/retail district. A separate plan will be enacted to deal with parking on the Gulf Drive portion of the ROR district.

The plan evolved over the past year. It provides for ample sight lines at intersections and for landscaping along the street and at the corners.

In the ordinance, the owners of each mixed-use building will provide all parking on their own property.

No city right of way will be used.

The second reading and public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for the Feb. 24 commission meeting.

Election changes

Commissioners also heard the first reading of an ordinance that tweaks the way the city handles elections.

"We need to change our qualifying dates for years when there are federal, state and county elections," City Clerk Alice Baird said. "It needs to be early enough to give the supervisor of elections office time to print the ballots."

Anna Maria holds annual city commission elections. Every other year, there is only the local election.

The ordinance also names the county canvassing board as the authority in the big election years.

"We'd go to the supervisor's office on election night and sit there like bumps on a log," Baird said. "It's really just a duplication of effort."

The third stipulation of the ordinance is that commissioners will no longer serve on the canvassing board in the years when there's a local election only.

City Attorney Jim Dye said in an advisory opinion from the Florida Department of State, guidelines give criteria for rendering people ineligible to serve.

"You can't be a member of an election or re-election committee, you can't give an endorsement, with or without financial support, to a candidate and you can't hold a campaign sign, wear a T-shirt or give any other signal of support for a candidate," Dye said.

"You also can't attend a fundraiser for a candidate or sign an endorsement card for the candidate."

The canvassing board members will be chosen from the general public from now on, if the ordinance passes on second reading, which is scheduled for the Feb. 24 meeting.

Solid waste/recycling contract

There was some discussion on whether or not to put out a request for proposals to consider offers for companies other than Waste Management, the city's current waste removal company.

The present contract is up for renegotiation in March.

Mattick asked if there was any way for the three Island cities to band together to have more bargaining power than any one city has alone.

Mayor Mike Selby noted that Bradenton Beach currently is seeking bids for it's waste hauling services. Holmes Beach is only two years into a five-year contract.

"It's difficult to get the three cities in the same cycle," he said.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said that personally, he's very happy with Waste Management's services.

"But as a commission, I think we should be looking for the best deal for the city," he said.

Resident Frank Pytel said he's in favor of soliciting bids.

"I just wanted to say that I completely agree with Commissioner Woodland. "Let's look at everything we can do to save money that won't raise our taxes."

Pytel also said he thinks the pickup should be only once a week rather than two times a week.

Whether or not to go out for bids will also be discussed at the Feb. 24 meeting to give all commissioners a chance to participate in the discussion.

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