ANNA MARIA – After 26 years as an Anna Maria Island tradition, the Tour of Homes is no more, but left behind is a legacy of groups joining together with the common cause of raising money for The Center.
The Center of Anna Maria Island’s signature event brought the public into private homes offered up for the day to showcase some of the area’s most charming, luxurious and beautiful residential properties. In addition to the home tours, attendees also were invited to purchase art, crafts and other goods at the Tour boutique, participate in a silent auction and buy raffle tickets to try and win a quilt, designed and created every year by the Eyeland Needlers.
The event was ended with the 2020 Tour of Homes canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the pandemic still ongoing two years later, the committee responsible for the Tour decided to replace it with a wine-tasting event, also planned to take place annually. That decision brought what was once a thriving event to a quiet close.
Reflecting on their years as a part of the Tour committee and Eyeland Needlers, Sandee Pruett and Joan Pettigrew both said the end of the event was bittersweet.
Pettigrew helped found the Eyeland Needlers with Penny Reinholz back in 2000. Pettigrew said it was Reinholz who came up with the idea to make a community quilt to raise funds for The Center. The Tour of Homes quilt was born as they were joined by many other quilters over the years to create a total of 20 fabric works of art, especially for the event. A fun fact, Pettigrew said, is that neither woman had ever quilted before they made the first Tour quilt, though both of them had artistic backgrounds. Of the original 12 Eyeland Needlers, she said only about four of them knew how to quilt that first year.
Pettigrew said she and Reinholz designed the first three quilts together before alternating designing duties for many years after that, until Reinholz left the group due to health concerns. Each of the 12 group members would select a section of the quilt to create and they would gather at The Center to work together.
Ken Jackson’s Green Real Estate sponsored the quilt from 2003-2019, while local real estate broker and owner Darcie Duncan was a frequent sponsor of the boutique.
The 2003 quilt was dedicated to the memory of group member Irene Murphy, who passed away that year. In 2007, the group introduced the “name the quilt” contest. For a month, the quilt was either on display at The Center or the Island Branch Library, where the public could put in their name suggestions. One name was chosen each year by the Eyeland Needlers and the winner was awarded raffle tickets to try and win the quilt. Raffle tickets to try and win the quilt raised thousands of dollars for The Center over the years.
Before the cancellation of the 2020 event, Pettigrew announced that the 20th quilt would be the group’s last. It was raffled off during a March 2022 wine-tasting event at The Center.
Pruett, who first joined the Tour of Homes committee as a liaison to The Center while working for the nonprofit in 2012, eventually became chair of the group.
“It did take a village to get this thing going,” Pruett said of the Tour of Homes, acknowledging the many volunteers, quilters, crafters and committee members who participated in the event over its 26 years. “Everyone worked so hard to try and make it easy for those who came.”
She added that committee members began meeting as early as October to plan for the next year’s event and to have crafting sessions, often at Pettigrew’s house.
“It was a lot of work and a busy day, but we always had fun,” Pettigrew said.