The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 22 - March 2, 2011


Wedding Fest 2011

Harry Stoltzfus
Wedding Festival participants jump for joy.

HOLMES BEACH – It was hard to tell whether this year's Anna Maria Island Wedding Festival attracted as many people as last year's because this one was more organized, according to organizer Deb Wing, the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce's executive assistant.

"Last year, we had the fashion show early and then people left to visit the vendor sites, which means they all left the same time in a big bunch," she said. "This year, the fashion show went on all day and people were more inclined to leave whenever they felt like it, so the crowds were smaller but steadier as they visited the vendors."

Wing said that they had more than 500 people sign up before the event compared with last year's 300. Last year's event attracted 882 people total.

This year, the Wedding Festival went two days with a party at the chickee hut at Gulf Drive Café on Saturday night. The intent was to get more people to spend the night on the Island, and whether it did would be hard to tally during season.

When the festival started Sunday morning, the skies were clear and the temperature stayed moderate but warm, which prompted the visitors to head for the trolleys and limousines to visit the vendors located at various sites around the Island. At the tent in the Chamber parking lot, music played as models showed off the various bridal fashions.

"This is a great event for this community and it gains exposure for Anna Maria," said Stacy Brown, who worked the vendor booth for Weddings of Sarasota, a group of wedding professionals. "This is a different format from other shows because the people travel around the Island and see various sites for a wedding or a reception."

Vicki Sack stood in the sun next to an arbor fitted with seashells, watching the crowd.

"This is the perfect setting," she said. "I live on the Island and I've gotten business from this festival before. I know it is a beautiful setting."

Jeff Smith and his fiancé, Jennifer Croffy, stood in front of the chickee hut at the Gulf Drive Café, waiting for a trolley or limo to take them south to Bridge Street. They were checking out the Island for a location for their beachfront wedding.

"We love this (chickee) hut because we could have our wedding under the roof if the weather gets bad," Jeff said. "This venue is great for a wedding."

Richard and Georgeann Butler were at their table inside the Bridge Street Bistro, formerly the Sun House, on Bridge Street. They are both wedding facilitators and were impressed with the view of the Gulf across the street.

"We have done a lot of destination weddings in Europe, South America, Canada, and here on the Island at the BeachHouse," he said. "We haven't seen any slowdowns in weddings, and we might break our record for business this year. People are still looking for something special."

Jill Chandler Fisher, who owns the floating chapel with her husband, Capt. Orca, had a booth under a tent at the Tortuga Inn. This was her second Wedding Festival and she remains impressed.

"We booked a wedding last night at the chickee hut," she said. "We brought the chapel to the Bradenton Beach Marina and were able to show it."

Last year, they docked it behind the Tortuga and a lot of people looked it over.

The festival culminated with a mock wedding at the Sandbar. Adrienne Merritt and Michael Ananicz took the vows from Rev. Charlie Shook on the beach as the sun headed for the Gulf. Following that, they drew entries for several gift baskets.

Liz Maokhamphiou won the grand prize basket. She said she had originally booked her wedding for Disney World, where her boyfriend proposed to her, but she said after seeing the Island, she booked the Sandbar restaurant and will bring her wedding party here.

As the sun set following the festivities, the crowd disbursed and the vendors started packing up. It was the end of another day, but it was the dawn of a new day for a number of people who found Anna Maria Island to their liking for their destination weddings.

Center to study city cell tower request

ANNA MARIA – Center board members formed an ad hoc committee to study a request from the city to allow a cell tower to be built at the Center.

"We're not spearheading this," Assistant Director Scott Dell stressed. "The city came to us with the contractors because they said this is the perfect location."

"We need an ad hoc committee to work on identifying the need, verifying the safety, looking up alternative technologies, evaluating other concerns and weighing the benefits to our community, " Executive Director Pierrette Kelly added.

Kelly said there are proposals from two providers, and residents are beginning to consider the lack of coverage a health and safety issue.

Affaire to Remember

Trudy Moon, chair of the Affaire to Remember set for April 2, asked board members for their help in securing sponsors and raffle and auction prizes.

"Every year, I'm as excited as the year before," Moon said. "You as a board can bring new people, new ideas and new exciting items. This year we're trying to find some money to bring that bill down and burn the mortgage."

She said the Affaire committee is considering moving the silent auction outside under a tent, and Dell said that would allow another row of tables inside the gym.

Chair Greg Ross gave the treasurer's report because treasurer Bill Ford resigned in December. Ford stayed on in January to help with the transition, but is now gone.

Ross said revenue is down $12,800 for January, but expenses also are down $3,400. However, in year to date, revenue is above budget by $5,000.

Ross nominated Randy Langley for the treasurer's position and he was elected unanimously.

Burn the mortgage

Kelly presented the Center's development plan charting events and fundraisers and noted, "In the last year, we've really made some progress. I'm hopeful this year will help us pay off the mortgage.

Kelly said the loan amount is $1.3 million and the Center has $300,000 in the bank, leaving $1 million left to raise. Ed Chiles, who chairs the Burn the Mortgage campaign, has challenged the board and will donate $50,000 if board members raise $100,000.

"We can't do this without you," she stressed. "You are the most critical part in this. We need people who can act as spokespersons, attend campaign events and make a meaningful gift.

"Burning the mortgage is our number one priority for the future of our organization. If we do it, everything else looks so much easier going forward. It's been a huge anchor around my neck and a real burden."


"We're rocking," Dell reported regarding programs. "More so than I've ever remembered. We're relying very heavily on volunteers, and we have a large group of active seniors who are really helping us out."

He said the sports programs keep breaking records, and expectations are high for the coming baseball and basketball programs. Soccer and kickball may be offered for adults.

"The TLC after school program is increasing and more than 50 percent are on partial scholarship," he continued. "The teen program is doing well, but they had to postpone their Washington D.C. trip until July because they don't have enough money to go at spring break."

Kelly said that because grant funding is down, they are trying to make up the deficit by fundraising. Dell said from now until Father's Day weekend, there are one or two fundraisers per month planned.

No pipes to be left behind

Those Island residents and beachfront business owners who were here during the ill-fated renourishment of 2005-2006 will remember how bad weather shut down the project while scores of rusty pipes used for bringing the sand from the borrow pit lay on the beach, spoiling the view and limiting access to the water.

No so this time, according to those who know.

At a pre-construction renourishment meeting between the county, officials from the contractor, representatives from state agencies and wildlife protection agencies, the plans call for pipes to bring the sand from the borrow area north of the Island down to Coquina Beach under water.

According to Rick Spadoni, senior engineer at Coastal Planning and Engineering, Inc., hired by Manatee County to engineer the project, the company made sure there would be no chance of replaying that scenario. Spadoni said the project focuses on two areas – Coquina Beach to the south and a small portion of beach in the city of Anna Maria. He said Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, the contractor hired to perform the renourishment, would renourish Coquina Beach first and then divert the flow to Anna Maria and collect the surplus pipes in the water when they are through at Coquina.

Great Lakes was the contractor for three of the Island's four renourishments since the first one in 1993. In both previous Great Lakes jobs (1993 and 2004), the company used a dredge named the Illinois. At the meeting last week, Great Lakes representative Sam Morrison said they would be using a similar dredge, the California, for this project. The California is a little bigger than the Illinois and its cutter is more powerful.

This week

During the meeting, Morrison said they are bringing in the pipe from Jacksonville, and it should be here this week. He said more pipe is coming from New Orleans.

"There will be 23,000 feet of pipeline for the job, and we are scheduled to start submerging it about March 8," he said. "It could take three to four weeks to lay it all down, but then we will mobilize the California, and we expect that portion of the job would take eight to nine days, depending on the weather."

Morrison said in addition to the California, which will sit in the water north of the Island and suck sand and water from the floor of the Gulf, people will also see a small barge somewhere along the pipeline, which the company will use to boost power to get the sand down to Coquina Beach. He said a second craft would also be out there.

"We will have a power barge, called the Key West," he said. "The California is an electric dredge and it will hold five generators."

Morrison said the company would probably start pumping sand around the first of April.

"After we're done at Coquina, it will take three days to swing the pipe over to Anna Maria," he said. "That job should be done in two to three days."

Morrison said the total pumping time for the project's two locations should not be more than two weeks.

Great Lakes may not be able to stage pipe or equipment at Coquina Bayside commercial dock as they did in the past. Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker told Morrison that dock was being used for another project, but they might be able to use it for short periods of time. Morrison said they would likely store some pipe at Longboat Pass. Charlotte Howard, of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems, asked if there were seagrass in that area and Morrison said no.

Turtle Watch lauded

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox was at the meeting along with two of her volunteers Claudia and Glenn Wiseman. As Spadoni read off portions of the permit pertaining to required monitoring of sea turtles, manatees and birds, Fox would respond to questions and indicated that she and her volunteers were ready for this project as they had been for previous projects. They learned that she would start monitoring the beaches daily after April 15 because of upcoming sea turtle nesting. Morrison said it would be beneficial for all if Great Lakes could be done with the project before then. He said that was a possibility.

Before the meeting ended, state officials had good words to say about Fox because of her past experience with renourishments and her willingness to go beyond the scope of her job to make sure the birds and other animals were protected.

"We're getting better," she said after volunteering to work with code enforcement officers in Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach.

Tour of Homes and quilt tickets available

Bayfest band Bootleg
Above, from left, back, Eyeland Needlers Mary Jo Gaspari,
Marcia Powers, Betsy Smith, Judy Bennett, Penny Reinholz and
Dolores Harrell, and front, Jane Coleman and Joan Pettigrew
made this quilt for the tour of homes.

Tickets for the 18th Annual Anna Maria Island Tour of Homes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 19, are available for $20 at the following Island locations:

Anna Maria: AMI Sun, 202 Palm Ave.; Ginny's & Jane E's, 9807 Gulf Dr.; The White Egret,10006 Gulf Dr.; Beach Bums, 427 Pine Ave.; and Egret's Nest,10010 Gulf Drive.

Holmes Beach: AMI Chamber of Commerce, 5313 Gulf Dr.; The Islander, 5404 Marina Dr.; LaPensee Plumbing, 401 Manatee Ave.; The Egret's Landing, 5602 Marina Dr.; and Island Fitness, 5317 Gulf Drive.

The tour will include a number of homes in Anna Maria City and Holmes Beach that reflect various styles of Island living and provide participants with ideas for interior decorating and entertainment.

You can also purchase tickets in advance to win the beautiful handmade quilt, "Feeling Beachy," made by the Eyeland Needlers." Tickets are available for $1 each or $5 for six at the Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

All proceeds benefit the Community Center, which services over 5,000 children, families and seniors of this community, with programs and services that otherwise would not be available.

For more information call the Anna Maria Island Center at 778-1908, ext. 0.

Passing the torch

From left, wedding winners Jared Lussier and Beverly Slimmer,
with David Teitelbaum, of the Tortuga Inn, Tradewinds and
Seaside Inn Beach resorts, and last year's winners Melissa
and Chris Varga.


The 2010 winners of the Seashells Wedding Bells Win-A-Wedding contest, Melissa and Chris Varga, handed the prize to this year's winners, Beverly Slimer and Jared Lussier. The contest, sponsored by the Tortuga Inn, Tradewinds Resort and Seaside Inn Beach Resort, offers three nights free in a deluxe two bedroom, two bath apartment for the bride and groom, a bottle of French champagne, a box of Belgian chocolates, an arrangement of white roses, bride and groom T-shirts, a $100 gift card for the BeachHouse, Sandbar or Mar Vista restaurants and special room discounts for all members of their wedding party. New for this year is the Tiffany package consisting of a large crystal Tiffany vase filled with seashells, a Tiffany sterling silver key with chain and a $100 Tiffany gift certificate in that famous blue box.

Beach Bistro prepares for parade

It's almost that time again, and Beach Bistro owner Sean Murphy has already booked Judy the elephant for this year's St. Patrick's Day Parade.

As in the past, Murphy has booked the pachyderm and her trainer to walk from Eat Here, at 5315 Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach, north along Marina and Palm Drives to 79th Street on Sunday, March 13, starting at 4 p.m. Parade participants are required to be there by 2 p.m. to check in.

In addition to Judy, the parade will include a lot of music in the form of high school marching bands, fife and drum bands, local musicians and Irish dancers., The parade's guest of honor will be World War II veteran Jim Gabaree, an Army ranger wounded in the assault on Pont du Hoc on D-Day.

For more information, call the Beach Bistro at 778-6444.

Fire district selects Ross Built for remodel

BRADENTON – West Manatee Fire Chief Andy Price reported that a committee met with four bidders regarding the remodeling of Station 1 in Homes Beach and after reviewing proposals, it recommended Ross Built and Synalovski Associates for the job.

Other bidders were Totems Architecture & Magnum Builders, BMK Architects, Inc. and J. Thomas O'Brien, AIA & W/DL Porter Constructors. The board gave Price authority to begin negotiations with Ross Built.

Commissioner Scott Ricci handed out a prepared statement and read, "As far as the remodeling of the newly vacated space, a lot can be accomplished with minimal expense as outlined below and in the very crude sketch I have provided.

"As I understand, Station 2 (in Cortez) is going to need very extensive work in the not to distant future. Let's conserve our available capital reserve funds for that endeavor."

"Part of the process is to have them determine what needs to be done," Price responded. "We have to start the process first. We'll fix what we need to fix and maximize the space we have."

Price said when changing uses, new code standards must be met.

"This will give us the opportunity to see what we need to do," Commissioner Randy Cooper added.

Ricci then asked to be the board liaison to the contractor and the others agreed.

"That will be good because you can see the process," Price said.

Deputy Chief Brett Pollock said the district received a $500 grant from the Florida Native Plant Society for plants for the new administration building and is getting five rain barrels. He said he hopes to have the plants installed in 30 days.

Code officer reports on encounter with fisherman

HOLMES BEACH – Code Enforcement Officer Nancy Hall filed a report with city commissioners regarding her encounter with fisherman Wayne Slusser in May 2010.

Hall said Mayor Rich Bohnenberger asked her to write the report in response to Slusser's claims that some of the city ordinances regarding the beach are outdated or violation of state law. Slusser's issue began with encounters he had with Hall and the police over lighting on the beach during turtle season.

In her report, Hall said, "On the evening of May 29, 2010, I was conducting a lighting inspection. At the 31st Street beach access, I observed a lit up area of the beach. There were several floodlights attached to poles and line. A large tent was set up with chairs, coolers, monitoring equipment and a generator. "

Hall said she approached the people in the tent and one was Slusser. She asked them if they were aware that it was turtle season and the city has a lighting ordinance. She said Slusser said he was conducting research for Mote Marine.

Hall said because she could not confirm the story that night, she left them there. However, the next day she confirmed with Mote officials that he did not work for them, and to date "he has not provided the city with any documentation in reference to his research/non profit business status."

And according to a police report from October 2010, Slusser and others were found on the beach using man-made structures and artificial lighting and again claimed to be working with Mote. However, the officer said he knew that to be untrue, and they were asked to leave the beach.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper