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Date of Issue: December 07, 2006

Busiest pre-Christmas day coming

The biggest single day until Christmas itself is just around the corner, and an Islander will be lucky to work in half of the programs organized.

Saturday, Dec. 9, will be jammed full of activities and entertainment and Christmas, with a parade, Fun Day, toys, holiday lighting, and much more cheer and joy.

A main focus will be on the annual Privateers parade, transporting Santa Claus and his sleigh the length of the Island from Anna Maria City Pier to Coquina Beach. That begins at 10 a.m. and winds up about noon.

Santa and his traditional transport - a beautiful red sleigh with glistening reindeers - will be shipped down the Island behind the Privateers’ big ship-float, the landborne ship that is so high in Island tradition. Some 30 floats and other units are expected to follow the ship down-Island in the big parade, said the Privateers.

At Coquina, Santa will have a gift for every child who shows up, and there will be hot dogs, hamburgers and sodas as well, all free for kids, of course.

Along with the Privateers’ Santa visits, Chuck and Joey Lester will again host families to a terrific time with games and activities on their Fun Day this year in tandem with the Privateers’ party. Tony Rizzo will provide music throughout the afternoon and the Duffy’s Tavern crew will cook up burgers for donations to the event. Community organizations, including the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, help with activities, including a kids’ "fishing pond" for prizes, cookie decorating, ornament crafts and more. All fun, all for families.

Chances for 40 turkeys will be offered, along with a drawing for special prizes donated to the cause by the co-sponsor, The Islander newspaper.

The Lesters are Island and Wisconsin residents who figure so large in Island life, including their offer to match dollars from the community’s givers into the capital fund of the Anna Maria Island Community Center. The Lesters will match all donations made by Dec. 31 up to $50,000.

The annual Winterfest, fundraising festival of the Island Art league, will be Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Holmes Beach City Hall park, 5801 Marina Drive. More than 100 artists and artisans from around the country will be there with their creations for show and for sale. The "festival of fine arts and fine crafts" will have live music, all those booths, a food court, and artworks by the artisans donated to a raffle.

Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach will host its annual holiday event to welcome Christmas from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., with merchants welcoming their guests and raffles, music and music.

A few days later Ed Chiles will host the annual Lawton Chiles Christmas for Kids party, begun by the late Gov. Lawton Chiles and continued through the Christmas years by his family. About 100 invited youngsters from needy families are expected at the Sandbar Restaurant for the party, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Dec. 12.

And the next day, Dec. 13, the Pines Trailer Park will play host to children from the Bradenton Head Start program at the park’s clubhouse at the end of Bridge Street from 10 a.m., when Santa will arrive on a fire truck courtesy of the West Manatee Fire Rescue District.

And in what could be the final appearance on Anna Maria Island of Santa Clause before the "bid day" on Dec. 25, the Moose Lodge at 110 Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach will host a children’s Christmas party for youngsters from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17. All are welcome.

Toys for Tots will be collected meanwhile all through the Christmas season for the Marine Corps Reserve at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce office, 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.