Holmes Beach Founders Day celebratedThe city of Holmes Beach celebrated its 62nd birthday with music, food, art, classic cars and lots of memories.
TOM VAUGHT | SUN
At right, Nicolas Cutler sticks to the wall in his Velcro suit
while his father, Andy, makes sure he doesn’t slip off.
HOLMES BEACH – Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a sandy little beach town where doors were always unlocked, peacocks strolled the shell roads and everybody knew everybody else.
That was once Holmes Beach, which celebrated its 62nd anniversary Friday and Saturday, April 13-14, with a two-day festival launched by keynote speaker and native Paulette Webb, a former Holmes Beach city clerk.
Webb’s parents, J.D. “Doc” and Jackie Webb, came to the city in 1953 to visit family, and Doc vowed never to return to the hot, mosquito-ridden wilderness.
But in 1954, he got a job offer as a pharmacist in Florida and wound up right back in Holmes Beach as proprietor of the Island Pharmacy, where the Sand Dollar is now. In 1962, he built a new store, Webb’s Island Pharmacy, on Marina Drive, where the cell tower now stands.
Paulette Webb served as an assistant to her grandmother, Polly Archer Beaver, who was Holmes Beach city clerk for 14 years, before becoming city clerk in 1971 herself.
Polly’s husband, Fred Archer, developed the 17-acre Laguna Maria between Oak Street and what is now CrossPointe Fellowship on Marina Drive, including Archer Way, Periwinkle Plaza and part of Oak Street. Archer dug the canal between Periwinkle Plaza and Oak Street and used the fill to raise the land for homes.
After wildcats, rattlesnakes and mosquitoes were eradicated, or at least tamed, the city became one of the fastest-growing communities in Florida, Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said, adding, “Then we ran out of land.”
Former City Commissioner Jefferson Asbury, who served from 1975 to 1978, recalled people flocking to dine at Pete Reynards waterfront restaurant, behind where Keyes Marina is now, and where he served as chef.
The best house on Key Royale cost $28,000 when he moved here 40 years ago, he said, adding, “This was the cheapest place to live in Manatee County.”
City government was so small that the mayor and the police chief shared a desk.
In 1972, “the worst storm we ever had” wiped out 27 houses, including his family’s cottages on Avenue F, he said.
People shared their phone numbers in four digits, because the prefix was always the same on the Island – 778 – and the area code was always 813, he said. Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine retold a suburban legend that Pete Reynard’s phone number was one digit different from the police station, and the cops would sometimes answer the phone and take reservations just for fun.
He recalled the evidence “closet” in the basement of the old police station, which had been a sewage treatment plant. “Green stuff” grew on the evidence, and the basement firing range had to be disbanded when ricocheting bullets proved a problem, he said.
New on the job, he once called emergency responders when he heard a screaming woman who “sounded like she was dying,” he said, only to track down a screeching peacock on the roof of a house.
Memories flowed over into the rest of the two-day celebration, which included live music in the city field, arts and crafts, a classic car show, a food court and a children’s area.
Members of the Anna Maria Island Community Chorus and Orchestra performed at the dedication ceremony on Friday at Holmes Beach City Hall, with Kirby Stewart American Legion Post 24 posting the colors and Mike Sales singing the National Anthem.
Three new Community Partners also were recognized with awards:
- Otis Rothenberger, a former Manatee Community College professor, who donated $2,000 to the city for youth activities in honor of his late wife, Carol;
- Gary Taylor, of Arctic Palms, who donated 140 palm trees to the city; some have been planted or placed in pots at Wells Fargo, Tidemark, the Island Branch Library and the Feast restaurant;
- Jeb Stewart, of Stewart Landscape Management, for maintaining landscaping on traffic medians.