Nolan Wallace, 6, has fun in the "snow" at Island Sun Plaza
Friday night during the Anna Maria Holiday of Treasures.
ANNA MARIA – It was a step back in time when you could walk around at night safely and your front porch served as another living room. That was the setting for the Anna Maria Holiday of Treasures and hundreds of residents and visitors took advantage of brisk temperatures to tour the businesses that opened their doors, shopping for unique merchandise and enjoying their generous libations and snacks.
While the weatherman's predictions precluded snow, there was a snowmaker machine in the parking lot of the Island Sun Plaza and many kids who have never seen real snow enjoyed playing in it and watching the flakes fly. For others, cold temperatures were just a plane ride away.
"We're going back to Ohio," said Laura Bailey, who was shopping at Bella By The Sea. "There's a freezing rain there tonight and it's 26 degrees."
Meanwhile, Kandi Kerekes, owner of Three Island Monkeys, said she had so many shoppers in her store she had trouble keeping up.
"It was too busy to keep track of how many people came in," she said. "I wish every day was like this."
Bud and Annie Umphress, of Bloomington, Ind., who vacation in a second home in Palmetto, said it was reminiscent of days gone by when you could walk around at night without worrying. They especially liked the layout of Pine Avenue, which they had seen before its transformation.
"We've been coming here for 11 years and it's fantastic," Annie said.
The trail started on Gulf Drive, where J & J Graphics was serving snacks and drinks, including hot buttered rum. They also had specials on T-shirts and other items with graphics on them. Outside, a burning log in an outdoor fireplace was adding aroma to the air as a "Shrek" Christmas movie played from inside the store.
There was a constant crowd at Slim's and shoppers snacked inside the Sign of the Mermaid.
The businesses at the Island Sun Plaza banded together to offer the snow machine, chili and other snacks, hot and cold drinks and ice cream from Dips. Santa was on hand inside a genuine sleigh to talk with the kids and pose for pictures.
Moving on, there was live music outside Feeling Swell and across the street, Rudy's was serving subs and cookies. At the old post office building, An Island Place featured a huge beach chair outside and a Whitman's Sampler box just as huge. The folks at Advanced Insurance Brokerage were serving food and drink as was Anna Maria Sarong.
Christmas merchandise was marked down at the White Egret and a huge crowd was shopping and getting their cards marked for a prize drawing later. There was food and drink at Anna Maria City Hall, which was elegantly decorated in the meeting room.
Along Pine Avenue, Pink & Navy had a 15 percent discount in effect and Bella by the Sea had shoppers lined up to pay. Darcey Duncan Real Estate had a beautiful light display again this year and there was food and refreshment served from a table outside. At Shiny Fish, a large, new store, crowds were checking out the merchandise for adults and kids as they served concoctions from their snack bar.
Across the street at the Anna Maria General Store and Deli, Stephen Jacob played holiday music from a keyboard wearing a Santa shirt that asked, "Does this shirt make me look fat?"
The Italian Kitchen, a new eatery on Pine Avenue, served samples from their menu as they stamped the game cards. It was packed inside.
The Anna Maria Historical Society had live music, food and drinks outside and society president Melissa Williams talked with visitors inside, wearing period clothing.
The businesses with the big front porches took advantage of the space to welcome visitors with food, drink and music. Inside, huge crowds picked through merchandise of all kinds at The Island Cabana, Business Outpost and Olive Oil Outpost.
The Flip-Flop Shop had Christmas Flip-Flops for sale to take the place of those mundane stockings on your mantle. They expanded to offer a wide array of candies including some the adults used to enjoy when they were kids.
"We're doing great tonight," said owner Susan Brinow.
Diane Helveka and Lauren Sato, owners of Beach Bum's, said the evening was one of the best they've ever had.
"It was just fantastic," Sato said. "People were in such a great mood and the whole evening was wonderful."
Betsy Hills was celebrating the sale of her business to Island Real Estate. The teal colored Island Real Estate sign was already in place inside the frame that was still painted red, Betsy Hills' business color.
Members of the Rosedale family enjoyed the evening at the Rosedale Cottage, formerly owned by the family and now housing Sato Real Estate. The Rosedales and Barbara Sato all wore Christmas red tops.
The final stop was Bayview Plaza, the shops were open but many in the crowd stopped short of there. Too bad since there were great values in Chapae, Two Scoops, Two Sides of Nature and Two Sides of Nature Too. Next year, the prize cards might require stamps from there.
Overall, the merchants were happy with the exposure this event brings. Kerekes put it this way: "When I hear them say, 'I didn't know you were here,' or 'I didn't know you had all this,' it makes me feel good."