Lester Family Fun Day packs the house
Pat copeland | sun
Carolers Alejandro Naranjo, Natalie Almeter, Rebekah
Johns and Alfred Gonzalez, of the Manatee Players
and the State College of Florida, entertained those
coming in the door.
ANNA MARIA – Lester Family Fun Day lived up to its name Saturday, providing a day of exciting activities, fantastic performances and visits with the big man himself – Santa Claus – for Island families and friends.
“It’s absolutely fantastic!” mom Jennifer Chatt declared. “It’s such a great place for the kids to be and have fun.”
“We’re very happy to be able to do it,” Joey Lester said, of the day funded for the past 12 years by her and her husband, Chuck, as they watched children’s faces light up with joy.
Costumed Manatee Players, who also were students at State College of Florida, greeted those coming in the door with Christmas carols to set the mood.
Once inside the gym, kids went from station to station decorating cookies, making holiday cards, fishing for prizes at the Island Kiwanis booth and having their faces painted. Ben Schabacher, 4, sat expectantly holding a photo of a shark that he wanted painted on his face.
“He loves fishing,” said his mom, Kerry. “We live in Holmes Beach and come every year. We love it.”
In one corner, children squealed in the bounce house, and in another, kids lined up for Tony the Balloon Guy, who made colorful animals, swords and hats. Magician Stevie Dee held court nearby, aweing even the parents, and outside pony rides were popular.
Everyone stopped as the graceful dancers from the Diane Partington School of Classical Ballet took the floor and performed selections from “The Nutcracker.” They were followed by a stirring performance by the Manatee High School Drum Line.
Visitors dined on Duffy burgers and dogs while purchasing raffle tickets for a television, a cruise and gift certificates from local merchants. Then Santa, who arrived by fire truck, was ushered into the gym by the drum line and took his place on the stage to welcome kids and hear their Christmas wishes.
“We bring the kids every year,” said Dave Greene, of Homes Beach, as he waited for his daughters to visit with Santa. “We’re thankful there’s a place like this to support the community of families on the Island.”
This year there was a new offering – a gingerbread house contest among Island restaurants. Visitors voted for entries from the Sandbar, the Sign of the Mermaid and Hometown Desserts, all of Anna Maria.
The Sandbar took home the trophy with the most votes. Those who voted were entered into a drawing to win one of the gingerbread houses.
"What an amazing day !" Center Executive Director Dawn Stiles declared. "This event truly reflects the spirit of the season and our community. The Lester’s generosity is exceeded only by the joy in their faces watching the children’s delight."