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Vol. 14 No. 25 - April 16, 2014


Affaire Rocks with Bertie Higgins' Band of Pirates
Carol Whitmore

pat copeland | sun


ANNA MARIA – The “stars” came out for the Island Community Center’s annual Island Affaire gala, "Just Another Day in Paradise,” on Saturday enjoying dinner, silent and live auctions and dancing to international recording artist Bertie Higgins and his Band of Pirates.

“The greater Anna Maria Island community once again showed its love and support for the Community Center and its mission,” Executive Director Dawn Stiles said. “Attendance at the annual event was high, and the energy level even higher, as we raised much needed funds to support the crucial services provided by the Center.

“The evening ended with lots of laughter and fun as we danced to the tropical rhythm of Bertie Higgins and his band playing hits from the 80s and bantering with our guests.

“I am so grateful to our staff who worked countless hours to make this night a success and to the event sponsors and guests who believe in and share our vision and values."

Assistant Executive Director Scott Dell added, “It never ceases to amaze me the generosity of this community. The hard work, dedication and commitment of so many donors, sponsors, volunteers and staff make the Island Affaire an amazing event year after year.

“The success of this event truly does make a difference in the lives of so many, and I can’t thank everyone enough. I am truly grateful to everyone that supported it.”

This year the order of the program was a departure from past years with a cash call after dinner. Volunteers and special people were recognized and then an anonymous donor pledged $15,000 as Griffin Heckler, who grew up in the Center, sang “You are Beautiful.” The cash call was successful with $30,500 raised for scholarships.

The live auction was next with the pick of the live auction winner drawn first. David Ridley, of Anna Maria, selected the trip to Costa Rica.

Raffles followed with auctioneer Bobby Smith winning the sapphire and diamond bracelet and E. Withers winning the golf cart. As he went to claim his prize Smith said, ‘All the ladies will hate me!”

Then Higgins and his band rocked the room with a selection of hits getting the crowd up and dancing the night away.


Trudy Horigan was devoted to her community

Trudy Horigan, who passed away on Sunday, April 6, at Blake Medial Center, was a friend to all and devoted to her husband, John, and their family, as well as her community.

She was the consummate volunteer, offering her time to Cultural Connections, Island art groups, the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra (AMICCO), Roser Thrift Shop, Roser Food Pantry and many more. Her friends paid tribute to her with these reminisces:

“She was a wonderful person and did so much for the community. When she came in a room, she lit up the room, and everybody knew her. She was an inspiration to all – a testimony of someone who loved her community.

“Her passion was being part of the community and serving the community. If more people had that kind of passion, the world would be a much better place. She’ll truly be missed.” Rev. Sung Lee, Roser Church

“I first met Trudy through our work for AMICCO, where her husband, John, served as our board president for many years. Trudy was the AMICCO house manager and established the format for our front of the house operations, including box office and ushers, which we continue to follow today.

“Trudy lived her life as a good friend; a staunch community member, who never failed to volunteer for any event that enriched her community; and a wonderful wife and mother.

“Her “take no prisoners” attitude let you know immediately where you stood with her, but she never failed to demonstrate that she had a kind and generous heart and was someone upon whom you could count. She is irreplaceable and will not be forgotten.” Jeanie Pickwick

“Trudy was a giver and a participant in just about everything Island. She knew everyone, and I got to meet a whole lot of people just by hanging out with her at various Island events. Trudy was always quick to volunteer and gave so much of her time to others.

“My particular memory of Trudy was Facebook. Instead of talking on the phone, we would chat on Facebook almost every day – happy stories, sad stories, the saddest of which were the chats during the week that she was so sick and then the message to her that she couldn't answer.

“The Island events will continue, folks will continue to enjoy life on Anna Maria, but for me there is a piece of Anna Maria that will be forever missed – our Trudy's smile and her engaging laugh.” Marsha Bard

“Trudy was an endearing soul who was vibrant in Roser Community Church activities and who always spoke her mind. She was a hard worker and had a big smile on her face most all of the time. We will truly miss her.” Pam and Major Leckie

“Trudy was a true friend and the jewels in her crown were her wonderful children. When my husband was sick, Trudy and John visited, brought meals and encouragement. I will miss her smiling face.” Carolyne Norwood

“Trudy loved supporting the arts as well as painting. We enjoyed painting together with other Guild artists at Cafe on the Beach each Monday morning.

"Later we all would gather around and have lunch together. Her favorite subjects for her paintings were fields of flowers and quaint houses from her travels in Europe.

“Trudy was a fun person to be around with a great sense of humor. Monday Morning Painters will dearly miss her.” Midge Pippel

“Trudy always had a ready smile along with a bold honest, and uniquely her, comment or observation about situations and events. I always admired John and her shared values and contributions as volunteers for the good of the community.” Joan Voyles

"Trudy was very civic minded. She didn't beat around the bush. She told it like it was." Betty Ramsey

There will be a memorial service for Trudy on Wednesday, April 16, at 2 p.m. at Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria.

Easter is for kids

For the 28th year, the Easter Bunny will visit the Sandbar restaurant in Anna Maria on Saturday, April 19, starting at 9 a.m. for the Easter Egg Hunt, co-sponsored by The Anna Maria Island Sun and the Sandbar restaurant. Refreshments will be served in the outdoor pavilion starting at 8:30 a.m., before the egg hunt at 9 a.m. Kids should bring baskets or bags for their eggs. They will line up on the sidelines and when the signal sounds, they’ll be off to hunt for eggs on the beach.

After that, the Easter Bunny will lead a parade down Pine Avenue for the Fifth Annual Easter Egg Roll and the Fourth Annual Easter Bonnet Contest along with face painting, egg painting and dyeing. Dara Caudill, of, will take complimentary pictures of kids with the Easter Bunny. The Sandbar will provide food and refreshments including fresh squeezed orange juice, mimosas, quiche and ham biscuits. AMI Donuts will offer freshly made donut bites. DJ Chuck Caudill will provide the music and everyone will receive an entry for drawings for prizes in participating shops along Pine Avenue. The egg roll and bonnet contest event is also sponsored by Pine Avenue Resoration and the Anna Maria Island Sun. The Easter egg roll will take place from 9:30 a.m. to noon. There will be valuable prizes for the winners.

For more information on the Sandbar Easter Egg Hunt and Pine Avenue Easter Egg Roll contact Tina Fusaro at 778-8710 or

Easter services scheduled

Easter on Anna Maria Island will offer special services at the churches and the 50th Annual Easter Sunrise Service at Manatee County Beach at 6:30 a.m., sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Anna Maria Island. Bring a chair or blanket. The bucket will be passed during the offertory, and the proceeds go to all six Island churches. Trolleys start running at 6 a.m.; ride one to the service and avoid the traffic jam.

• CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-0719. There will be an Easter Sunday service at 9 a.m.

• Episcopal Church of the Annunciation, 4408 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-1638. On Easter Sunday, there will be a Eucharist Rite 1 with music at 7:30 p.m., at 9 a.m. Rite II with music, a 10:15 a.m. Easter egg hunt and an 11 a.m. Rite II with music.

• Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, 6778-1813. There will be Easter services at 8 and 10:30 a.m. plus a brunch and Easter egg hunt at 9 a.m.

• Harvey Memorial Community Church, 300 Church Street, Bradenton Beach, 779-1912, will hold a service on Easter at 9:30 a.m.

• Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, 778-0414, will celebrate with Easter services at 9 and 11 a.m. in the sanctuary.

• St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-4769. There will be Easter Sunday Masses at 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., plus two at 10:30 a.m., one Mass in the church and one in the Parish Hall. Kids will be able to hunt for Easter eggs after the 10:30 Masses.

Island singer seeks Senior Idol title

HOLMES BEACH – Tuesday night, 74-year-old Holmes Beach resident Bob O’Brien will channel his inner-Elvis while standing on the Ruth Eckerd Hall stage as one of 12 entertainers trying to win the 2014 Bright Stars Senior Idol competition.

Sponsored by Bright House Networks, and modeled after the American Idol television show, the annual competition features entertainers aged 55 and up competing for bragging rights and prize money, while raising funds for senior charities in the Tampa Bay area.

O’Brien is one of three Manatee County regional finalists who will travel to Clearwater on April 22 to compete against finalists from Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties. Audience members will decide who takes home the $500 in prize money, with an additional $500 given to winner’s charity of choice.

Dressed as Elvis Presley circa his 1968 comeback, wearing a black leather outfit and recently-dyed jet black hair, O’ Brien will hit the stage accompanied by Presley’s traditional intro music, “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” better known as the theme song from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” During his eight to 10 minutes on stage, O’Brien will sing two Presley classics: “Love Me” and “One Night.” He performed the same songs in February at the State College of Florida’s Neel Performing Arts Center during the local competition that earned him a trip to the finals.

“I’m an entertainer and I do Elvis, so I just picked out two of my favorites that everybody knows,” he explained.

O’Brien said his routine pokes a little fun at the Elvis mystique, but does so in a manner that is still respectful of the music legend.

Thursday afternoon, the contestants attended a preproduction meeting at Ruth Eckerd Hall that gave them an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the venue, stage and sound system.

O’Brien is no stranger to the spotlight, having performed his one-man show at senior living centers and other venues. His repertoire includes an Elvis show, a Frank Sinatra show and a hit parade that incorporates the music of Bobby Darin, Dean Martin and others.

When asked to gauge the competitive zeal he feels toward the Senior Idol finals, the lifelong track and field enthusiast said, “It started out as a lark, but now that I’m here, I’m in it to win it. A win would spur me on to do other things because the winner’s going to get a lot of coverage.”

Bay News 9 anchorman Al Ruechel will serve as master of ceremonies and the news agency will cover the big show. An edited version of the competition will be made available to Bright House customers as on demand programing and each contestant will receive a DVD keepsake.

Born, raised and educated in the New York area, O’ Brien, spent much of his adult life out West, including Laramie, Wyo., where he was the president of a computer services company. He and his girlfriend, Carol Homer, moved to Holmes Beach two years ago. She was O’Brien’s first love, and they reunited seven years ago after spending 50 years apart.

Homer will accompany O’Brien to Tuesday’s show, joining a crowd of more than 1,000 anticipated spectators. Showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets are $7 and available at the door.

For more information visit or call 727-791-7400.

Visit Kentucky Derby at Food and Wine on Pine

ANNA MARIA – You don’t have to miss the Kentucky Derby to enjoy Food and Wine on Pine on Saturday, May 3, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria.

Just make your way to Pine Avenue Downs at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Shore Drive for the Derby experience with televised races, games, raffle prizes and derby drinks, including the famous mint julep. Bright House Networks will supply the big screen TVs and the Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island will oversee the games.

Win prizes in chance betting games and try for the 50/50 cash prize, in which the winner takes 50 percent of the cash, for the main race. Tickets for raffle baskets filled with gifts from local businesses and valued at more than $100 each also will be available.

Let your creativity go crazy in the Derby hat contest, sponsored by Rhonda Grote, of Relish Café and Market Place. Men, women and children are invited to enter and are asked to come to Relish before 1 p.m. for a photo of their creation. Photos will be displayed at the café, where visitors will vote for their favorite.

All contestants will assemble at Relish at 3 p.m. for a parade down Pine Avenue to the Derby tent to lobby for final votes. Photos will be posted in the Derby tent and the voting will continue until 4:30 p.m., when the winner will be announced.

First prize will be a Relish Café and Market Place experience for the winner’s group of up to six people for drinks, lunch and dessert on the house. In addition, everyone in the group will receive 20 percent off any merchandise purchased at the café that day. Value is $150.

The second prize in the hat contest is a $50 gift card to Relish Café and Market Place.

Food and Wine on Pine will feature fresh, local Florida foods provided by 25 restaurants, a juried art show, children’s activities, actors in period costumes, street performers and music.

The entry fee is $2 with children under 12 admitted free. Tickets for food and beverages are $1 each. Event parking at the Island Community Center and at CrossPointe Fellowship is free with free trolley rides to Pine Avenue.

For information on the event and sponsorship opportunities, contact Caryn Hodge at 941-778-8705 or

Mayor presents plans for parking garage, gondola

HOLMES BEACH – After seeing Mayor Carmel Monti’s plans for Manatee Public Beach and a gondola system, city commissioners nixed a parking garage, but had mixed feelings about paid parking and the gondola.

Monti last week presented drawings depicting a three-story parking garage, an events pavilion and changing cabanas at the beach and a gondola to transport people between the beach and the mainland. He said the parking garage could hold 1,000 vehicles and have bicycle, golf cart and Segway rentals and other shops and offices around the perimeter.

“We don’t make any decisions besides building code specifications at this property,” Commissioner David Zaccagnino pointed out. “We have no say so whatever. It’s Manatee County. They have to give the approval, and they’ll do whatever they want.”

“I have been in discussions with most of the county commissioners and department personal, and in general, they like the idea,” Monti replied. “They view this as a way to capture the traffic there and as a revenue generator for the Island.”

Keep recreational use

Chair Judy Titsworth pointed out that the beach is recreational and said, “I agree with David. It’s our zoning, and we shouldn’t give up our recreational use so Manatee County can make money.

“Adding more parking adds more bodies, and the rentals would generate revenue for the county and take away from our businesses.”

She said no one would want to get in a gondola on a stormy summer afternoon.

Monti said county officials have told him that money made on the Island should stay on the Island.

“I am so pleased that we have a mayor who thinks creatively,” Commissioner Jean Peelen declared. “I’d love to hear more about the gondola.

“Our biggest problem on this Island is traffic, but I don’t like the parking garage. If you put 500 more cars in there, it’s a real traffic issue. I don’t want to create more places for people to park.”

Monti said the idea is to “capture the cars there and give them other ways to get around the Island,” which prompted Titsworth to point out, “You’re putting the cart before the horse. There’s no safe place to ride bikes.”

When polled, all five commissioners said they do not like the parking garage, but they like the event pavilion and changing cabanas. There were mixed feelings about the gondola, with Titsworth, Zaccagnino and Commissioner Pat Morton not in favor and Peelen and Commissioner Marvin Grossman willing to wait and hear from the public at Monti’s presentation on April 16 at 5 p.m. at city hall.

Paid parking

Monti asked how commissioners feel about paid parking at the public beach and Titsworth, Zaccagnino and Morton said no and Peelen and Grossman said they are undecided.

“It’s one of the few places left in Florida that working people can go to the beach for free,” Zaccagnino said.

“My objection is that people will find the free places to park in residential neighborhoods and shopping centers, and we’ll have to have more tow away zones and signs,” Titsworth said.

“You say you don’t want more people, but keep it free,” Monti countered. “That’s a contradiction. If you want to have less people, charge them. Free parking attracts more people.”

Bicycle racks

Commissioners liked Monti’s plan for bike racks depicting spirals with decorative fishes, a large fish and a whale, which he feels would encourage bicycle use.

Monti said he is working on an alternative bike path, which could be Island-wide. He also said four bicycle rack spots take the place of one vehicle parking spot for beach renourishment purposes.

“The concept is to make the Island more bike friendly and pick up beach renourishment points,” he explained.

He said he found an artist in Tampa who submitted the designs and the bike racks would be made of aluminum. He said he hopes to get the Manatee County Tourist Development Council and sponsors to pay for them.

Peelen said she loved the idea and asked how big they and how much they would cost. Monti said 10 to 12 feet high. He has received quotes of $2,379 and $2,570 for two of the designs.

“What’s wrong with kickstands?” Titsworth asked. “This is not a natural look. They look touristy. I like wooden ones.”

“It’s difficult to secure bicycles at beach ends and you can’t use your kickstand,” resident Carol Soustek pointed out. “Bicyclists are looking for security.”

Titsworth told Monti to present a plan of where he would like to install the bike racks.

Organist retires from Harvey Church

BRADENTON BEACH – When the worshippers gather at Harvey Memorial Community Church at 10 a.m. on Easter Sunday, Betty Simches will put the wraps on her career as organist.

She has been a regular performer at the church, and now in her 89th year, she decided to quit. Her keyboard career came as the result of arthritis.

“I played piano all my life until arthritis took it toll on my hands,” she said. “I decided to try the organ because the motions are slower.”

“What an incredible woman,” said parishioner Diane Miller. She has been our choir master and our organist.”

Bernice Wortman said she had been attending church there for 26 years and Betty was the organist back then.

“We had a lot of people attend that church, and they all loved Betty,” she said. “We used to have a party for her once a year.”

Bernice’s daughter, Bona Wortman, was impressed with Simches' expertise.

“Her knowledge of music is expansive,” she said. “She could have gone wherever she wanted.”

As wife of the late Anna Maria Mayor Ray Simches, Betty Simches was interested in the community and she loved being a part of her church services.

“It has been a wonderful experience,” she said. “We have had three preachers at Harvey since I started.”

She said the preacher, who was there when she began, was respectful of the music.

“Clem Walker insisted on no talking when I played,” she said. “The second preacher, Bill Grossman, was a trombonist and he wanted to expand the music at the church. The man who preaches there now, Steve King, is perfect for the church. He’s a man who volunteers a lot, and he’s a man of great conviction.”

Simches also praised the singing during services.

“We have a great choir because everyone in it wants to sing,” she said. “They’re totally into the music.”

When the service ends at Harvey Church on Easter Sunday, there will be best wishes for the lady who provided the music for so many years.

“The music she plays is beyond measure,” Miller said. “We’ve been so blessed to have her.”

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