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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

New York Times discovers Island, too

Laid-back, kicked-back Anna Maria Island has been discovered.

Again.

Just a few weeks after a Los Angeles Times travel writer hit some of the highlights of the Island's lifestyle, Sunday's The New York Times section featured a full-page article on "Family Vacations: Perfecting the fine art of doing nothing" on our so-called "best-kept secret," at least as far as some past and, perhaps erroneous, advertising campaigns proclaimed.

As Times writer Charles Passy put it, "Anna Maria Island is a bit of Old Florida preserved. Largely devoid of the towering condos and glittering resorts that are   the beachfront norm of the Sunshine State, it's a place defined by a sometimes quaint, sometimes ramshackle way of life, where weather-beaten cars and one-speed bikes share the roads, and "fine dining" can be a meal of fried grouper served on the edge of a pier."

"Oh my God," said Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mary Ann Brockman Monday, "we brought in two more volunteers just to make up the direct marketing kits. We've had more than 200 inquiries today."

As of Tuesday morning, Brockman said she had received 331 e-mail inquiries and 80 phone calls for information on vacationing on Anna Maria Island as a direct result of the article.

Timesman Passy is also a Floridian, but from West Palm Beach. He described how he and his wife, son and daughter seldom go to the beach except when they visit Anna Maria Island where, as he puts it, "This isn't a place where you 'go' to the beach. Rather, the beach - never more than a few blocks away - seems to extend a welcoming hand to you, reaching out with its placid Gulf waters, wide-open stretches of fairly soft sand and classic sunsets. There's no 'scene,' a la South Beach, just a laid-back, family-friendly environment. Instead of 'Girls Gone Wild,' think moms, dads and kids gone lazy."

Nice comments.

Local photographer Chip Litherland captured some nice images for the Times of the Anna Maria City Pier, the Manatee Public Beach, the Island Trolley and other spots on the Island. And Passy hit on some of his favorite Island haunts, such as Cafe on the Beach, Star Fish Co. in Cortez, and hot spots such as the Anna Maria City Pier and the Rod & Reel Pier.

Response to the Sunday Times article had already hit by Monday. Star Fish Co.'s Paul Brugger caught the phone at mid-day and said, "I really don't have time to talk about it - I've got 15 people staring at me right now."

Other highlights in the article were Capt. Kim's Boat Rides in Cortez as a great way to view the area by water, plus Umbrella Beach and A Tropical Isle Vacation Properties as valuable resources to accommodate an Island stay.

But the best comment Passy had to offer in his travelogue of Anna Maria Island was within his conclusion:

"True, there's a beach within 15 minutes of our house, but it's not the same. As I said, real Floridians never go there. They go to Anna Maria Island."

Printed copies of the article are available at The Islander, 5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, or online at nytimes.com, where if you enter "Anna Maria Island," and select "this week's" articles, the search engine will find the article for you.