The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 9 - December 14, 2011


Anna Maria rolls out holiday carpet
Carol Whitmore

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.

Bargains, bargains

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.

Porches rule

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."

Enjoy all that glitters in Cortez Boat Parade
Carol Whitmore

Boats shimmer in last year's Cortez Yacht
Club Holiday Lighted Boat Parade.


The Intracoastal Waterway will sparkle and shimmer on Saturday at the Cortez Yacht Club's Eighth Annual Holiday Lighted Boat Parade.

The club is accepting entries for boats of all types, which will compete for $1,000 in prize money, including a $500 first prize for best decorated boat. No entry fee is required, but a toy donation is requested for Toys for Tots.

Captains must attend a skippers meeting on Thursday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m. at the Seafood Shack Marina Grill in Cortez to compete for prizes.

The parade will begin at dusk at the docks behind Mar Vista and Moore's restaurants on Longboat Key.

Spectators can enjoy the show from there or from the Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach during the Bridge Street Merchants Christmas Celebration.

Other good vantage points are the Longboat Pass bridge, Coquina Bayside Park, the Cortez Road bridge and the Seafood Shack restaurant, where the parade will end.

The event is organized by the Cortez Yacht Club and sponsored by The Anna Maria Island Sun and the Bridge Street Merchants Association.

To register, call 780-3547.

Too much of a good thing, H.B. official says

HOLMES BEACH – As the Manatee County Tourist Development Council applauded a report of record tourism on Monday, Holmes Beach Commission Chair David Zaccagnino added an Island perspective seldom voiced.

"You've done too good of a job," he told the advisory board to the Manatee County Commission, inviting them to attend a Tuesday, Dec. 13 Holmes Beach Commission meeting at 7 p.m. at city hall that will address problems caused by vacation rentals. "If this keeps going the way it's going, you're going to ruin this little Island community."

Residents have blamed tourists, rental agents and developers – but not the county's tourism marketing agency – for noise, trash and parking problems destroying residential neighborhoods that have been partially redeveloped with large, multi-bedroom "resort" houses.

"Residents are showing up with pitchforks and torches," Zaccagnino said about recent city meetings. "You're inviting everybody… but you don't want to clean up when you're done."

The city has responded to complaints with increased code enforcement and police action, but has limited staff and funds to tackle the growing problem, according to city officials.

"There's a great deal of pressure being put on code enforcement, police and maintenance," he said, asking the TDC and the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) for help at Tuesday's meeting and beyond.

"People living here shouldn't be driven out of their homes," said TDC member David Teitelbaum, a Bradenton Beach resort owner and Island Chamber of Commerce director, saying the issue is not whether to promote tourism, but abuses of the right to quiet enjoyment of property.

The solution is not to cut tourism marketing, he said; rather, it should be handled by revoking business licenses (rental agents allowing occupancy violations in rentals), calling the county health department (residential pools being used as commercial pools) and other enforcement methods.

"A few bad apples are spoiling it," he said.

"We can't get off the pedal" and cut back marketing efforts, said CVB Director Elliott Falcione, or it would take four to five times more money to get the "heads in beds" back again.

Still, visitors want the low-rise, low key, "detox" environment of the Island, he said, adding that tourism efforts need to be "tweaked."

"There's a balance," TDC Chair and former Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore said, adding that she would not complain about visitors unless they break the rules.

Whitmore said she is concerned with maintaining the character of the Island, even to the extent of wanting the new county beach sign toned down.

"This is a very unique Island," Zaccagnino agreed. "We don't want it to change."

Cortez fisherman sentenced
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

John Yates, a Holmes Beach resident and Cortez commercial
fisherman, at the U.S. Courthouse in
Fort Myers awaiting sentencing.

CORTEZ – Cortez commercial fisherman John L. Yates was sentenced to 30 days in Lee County jail on Thursday, Dec. 8, for violating federal fisheries regulations.

Yates, 59, of Holmes Beach, was found guilty by a Fort Myers jury on Aug. 5 of two felony counts of disposing of evidence to prevent seizure and destroying evidence to impede or obstruct a federal investigation. He was acquitted of a third charge, lying to a federal agent.

Judge John E. Steele sentenced Yates to 30 days for each count, to be served concurrently, waived a fine and imposed a $200 special assessment, a monetary penalty imposed for felony crimes.

Yates will be on supervised release for three years, subject to DNA collection and drug testing up to 104 times a year.

Yates said he plans to appeal the conviction, which stems from an August, 2007 incident.

Yates was fishing for grouper in federal waters as captain of the "Miss Katie" out of Cortez with two crew members when law enforcement officers boarded his boat and measured his catch, according to prosecutors.

Officers said that 72 red grouper were under the 20-inch legal limit. The law has since been changed to 18 inches.

Yates, who did not testify at trial, told The Sun this month that the officers measured the fish incorrectly, pressing the lower jaws of the fish – which jut out beyond the snout - against a board, and crushing the tails, making the fish appear shorter.

According to the prosecution, the jury heard these instructions from the judge before their deliberations: "The method for determining the total length of the red grouper is a straight-line distance from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail, while it is lying on its side. During that measurement, the mouth of the fish may be either closed or open, and the tail of the fish may be squeezed, whatever gives the fish the greatest overall measurement."

"I measure them with the mouth partially open to the tip of the tail," Yates said. "You measure for the greatest overall length, and they didn't do that."

After they measured the fish, officers told Yates to bring the fish back to the dock at Cortez, he said.

He told Judge Steele on Thursday that if the officers had "done their job" – confiscated the fish at sea – what happened next would not have happened.

On his return to Cortez, officers measured the fish again, finding that 69 red grouper were still short, but that some of them were longer than those measured at sea.

Comparing the individual measurements of the undersized grouper

Bethlehem Walk celebrates birth
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Roslyn Ward looks angelic with her
halo as she holds a baby goat during
the Bethlewhem Walk.

ANNA MARIA – The Annual Roser Memorial Community Church Bethlehem Walk puts the Christmas holiday in perspective by re-enacting the night Christ was born with the salt air and cool breezes of Anna Maria Island as the backdrop.

This year's celebration was no different, although one person eating at the Waterfront Restaurant put a smile on everyone's face as the procession passed in front of him.

This year's procession was impressive with dozens of people dressed as if they were in Bethlehem 2000 years ago and many youngsters dressed as angels, some with halos. As they did last year, the people marching past the restaurant got a lot of stares from patrons, many who might not have know what was happening. When it occurred again this year, the restaurant became silent. Suddenly from inside, a man's voice yelled out, "Merry Christmas," eliciting laughs from those inside and those walking past.

The Bethlehem Walk drew a large crowd this year and, as in years past, there were llamas, sheep, goats and a donkey that walked with the crowd.

"I was hoping to get an animal to walk with," 11-year-old Roselyn Ward said as she cradled a baby goat. "I didn't think I would be this lucky though."

Erin Tribble and Draycon Mapp played Mary and Joseph, stopping at pre-selected locations to ask those inside if there was room for the couple, who were expecting a baby soon. After being told there was no room, they took off for another stop, singing Christmas carols with the procession.

After returning to the church, the couple went inside and soon re-emerged with 3 1/2-month-old Evan Lioce, playing the baby Jesus. Rev. Gary Batey then narrated the story of the first Christmas. Following that, the crowd was invited inside for cookies and hot chocolate.

Nobody knows exactly how many years the church has been hosting the Bethlehem Walk, but as the memory of that first celebration has slipped away with time, the story lives on for adults and children alike to experience in the streets of Anna Maria.

Sarasota woman dies after being hit by car

BRADENTON BEACH – A 65-year-old Sarasota woman is dead after being hit by a vehicle at 900 Gulf Drive N. last Thursday.

According to Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby, the victim, Antoinette Pruss approached the crosswalk in front of the Gulf Drive Café around 10:30 a.m. and walked in front of the 1998 GMC Yukon driven by Kathleen Benison, of Cortez. According to information provided by the driver, she was talking to her passenger and they were looking at the Gulf of Mexico. The passenger saw Pruss and yelled to Benison, but it was too late. In her panic, the driver accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake.

Pruss was taken to the Blake Medical Trauma Center where she died on the operating table, according to Cosby. He said no tickets were issued as they are investigating and awaiting results of toxicology tests on the driver's blood. Cosby said he was still puzzled why the victim took that first step in front of the SUV without being sure it was going to stop.

Cosby said he worked the last traffic fatality in Bradenton Beach in July 1992. In that accident, the female victim was hit while in the crosswalk at First Street North and Gulf Drive.

Island Real Estate expands
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Island Real Estate Manager
Larry Chatt with Betsy Hills.


ANNA MARIA – Island Real Estate has purchased Betsy Hills Real Estate, located at 419 Pine Ave., giving them a presence on Anna Maria's growing business district.

Hills, a 35-year veteran of real estate on Anna Maria Island, will stay, as will her staff, according to Island Real Estate Manager Larry Chatt.

"I'm going to stay on to service my customers," Hills said. "It's all about people and I am excited that Island Real Estate is going to take the Betsy Hills legacy to the next level."

Hills purchased the office in 1980.

"This is an exciting new chapter for Island Real Estate," Chatt said. The company had a presence on Pine Avenue earlier, to service businesses investing in offices on the newly developed business district, but they closed it a while back. Chatt said they would continue to operate out of Hills' building.

Hills said she sold because she wanted to slow down after a long career and she was excited to turn over the reigns to Island Real Estate.

"This is an exciting new chapter for Island Real Estate," Chatt said. "It is timely to be on Pine Avenue."

Hills said she knew Island Real Estate would continue to focus on customer satisfaction, which is what she did.

The sale became effective on Friday, Dec. 9. No financial details were announced.

Be a winter winner on Bridge Street

Last year, the snow machine kept the kids busy pretending
they were in a snowstorm. They can expect
another snowy forecast during this year's event.

BRADENTON BEACH – You might have a merrier Christmas with extra gifts under the tree if you get lucky at the Christmas on Bridge Street Celebration on Saturday, Dec. 17.

The festivities begin at 9 a.m. with the Holiday Open House Walk About at 9 a.m. Shops will be open all day with special pricing on their unique items. Treat your loved ones to something that's not available at the big department stores – something you'd only find on an Island. Many shops will be offering snacks or refreshments as well.

At 3 p.m., it's Christmas on Bridge Street as the action moves outdoors where DJ Tom Barrons will provide the music until 4 p.m. when the Rowlett Choir and Drama students make a special performance of holiday music. Other students will be caroling during the afternoon. Santa and Mrs. Claus will make an appearance at 5 p.m. and talk with the kids.

Organizers will raffle fabulous gift baskets containing resort stays, dinner certificates, jewelry, spa services, shopping gift certificates, certificates for area attractions and activities, beautifully decorated holiday wreaths and much more, Proceeds go to the Manatee County Food Bank and the Roser Memorial Community Church Food Bank. Drawings will be held at 6:15 p.m. Please bring a donation of canned goods or non-perishable foods for the food banks as well.

If that isn't enough, there will be snow falling during the event. Bring the kids, especially those who have never seen real snow, to enjoy the look and feel of the white stuff, without the cold.

Time it so that you'll be on Bridge Street when the 2011 Cortez Yacht Club Lighted Boat Parade begins around dusk. The view from the Bridge Street Pier is as good as it gets.

Christmas on Bridge Street is brought to you by the Bridge Street Merchants, The Anna Maria Island Sun, Bright House Networks, The Bradenton Herald, METV, Miller Electric, Whitney Bank and Mike Norman Real Estate. The organizers especially want to thank the businesses that donated items for the gift baskets and made the holiday wreaths.

Come on out to catch some Island-style Christmas. Parking will be available along Cortez Beach and Coquina Beach or, if you live on the Island, catch the free trolleys and leave the car at home.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper