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Date of Issue: December 17, 2008

Holiday celebrated Islandwide

Islanders celebrated the season of joy from morning to night Dec. 13.

The day began with the annual Anna Maria Island Privateers Christmas Parade, which started in Bayfront Park and traveled the length of the Island — through Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach to Coquina Beach.

“My kids look forward to it every year,” said Lydia Tomlinson of Bradenton, who watched the parade pass by on Gulf Drive in Anna Maria. “This is always a big weekend for us — the parade and the lunch and shopping.”

Dozens of Island businesses and organizations participated in the motorized caravan of merriment that ended with Santa Claus in his sleigh.

“Tell him to remember to come down our chimney,” Melanie Kramer of Indianapolis told her son, Jeremy, 8.

Santa and the Privateers remained at Coquina Beach after the parade for a party. Children feasted on free hot dogs and hamburgers, visited with Santa and left with a present from the jolly old elf.

Dec. 13 concluded with the annual Bethlehem Walk organized by Roser Memorial Community Church in Anna Maria and a holiday open house on Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach. Holmes Beach businesses held an open house Dec. 5.

Each year, Roser welcomes a crowd for the Bethlehem Walk, a reenactment of the story of Mary and Joseph searching for shelter for the birth of Jesus.

Many members of the church arrived costumed as shepherds and, walking alongside a donkey and goats, going house to house in the Roser neighborhood with church members posing as Mary and Joseph.

The walk concluded at the church, where the Rev. Gary Batey retold the Christmas story and celebrants gathered for refreshments.

Meanwhile, the Bridge Street Merchants Association presented the open house in Bradenton Beach, an event that coincided with the Cortez Yacht Club’s fifth annual Holiday Lighted Boat Parade in the Intracoastal Waterway between the Bridge Street Pier and the Cortez Bridge.

Proceeds from Christmas on Bridge Street, raised with an auction of holiday decorations, jewelry, vacation packages and restaurant certificates, benefited the Tingley Memorial Library.

As people strolled the street and browsed the shops, DJ Chuck Weirich played Christmas carols. Organist Carl Parks also performed during the celebration, which included a meet-and-greet with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

“Well, I’ve been real good,” said Bridge Street shopper Ricky Jones, 7. “You can even ask my mom. So I should be getting lots of presents.”

During the open house, Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce lighted the Christmas tree. Many other businesses, residences and boats in the area, including a number of homes in the nearby Pines Trailer Park, already were festively decorated.

On Dec. 19, the city will hold a contest, presenting four prizes for best decorating in the holiday spirit, according to City Commissioner Janie Robertson.

The city will award first and second prizes in both residential and commercial categories. The top prizes will be $150 and the second-place prizes will be $100.