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Holiday rush begins

Santa offers a candy cane to Sara Erickson, 8, visiting from Knoxville, Tenn., during the 2009 holiday open house in Holmes Beach. This year the city’s businesses hold an open house from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 3. Islander File Photo: Lisa Neff

Alannah Friedman, 9, bathes in the “snow” during last year’s holiday open house in Holmes Beach.

Santa Claus is coming to town — more than once this month.

“That’s so that children who haven’t decided what they want at the Holmes Beach Holiday Open House have time to decide by the Bridge Street celebration in Bradenton Beach,” the jolly old elf said.

A glance at Anna Maria Island’s holiday calendar:

• Now through December 24, various locations serve as drop-off points for the Marine Corps’ annual Toys for Tots. Donors are invited to drop off unwrapped new toys in Anna Maria at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive; in Holmes Beach at Island Vacation Properties, 3001 Gulf Drive; Holmes Beach Fire Station, 6001 Marina Drive; Anna Maria Island Chamber of

Commerce; 5313 Gulf Drive; Whitney Bank, 5324 Gulf Drive; and in Bradenton Beach at the Back Alley, 121 Bridge St.

For details, call 941-778-1000.

• Dec. 3, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Holmes Beach merchants in partnership with the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, host a holiday open house.

Most of the activity will take place in the city’s downtown.

A parade, featuring the Anna Maria Island Privateers and an early appearance by Santa Claus, will begin at Crosspointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, and travel south on

Palm and Marina drives to the Island Shopping Center, 5404 Marina Drive. There, outside The Islander newspaper, Santa will visit with children.

Also, at the chamber office, 5313 Gulf Drive, merchants and the chamber board will light a Christmas tree.

Parade participants will gather at the church at about 4 p.m.

The tree lighting will take place about 5:30 p.m.
For more information, call 941-778-1541.

• Dec. 4-5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island presents the Island Holiday Decorator Showhouse at Villa Alexia, 518 58th St., Holmes Beach. The home will be decorated by the White Egret, an Island business. Tickets cost $10.
For more information, call 941-778-8585.

• Dec. 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Anna Maria Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria, is the site of the annual Lester-Islander Family Fun Day.
The event features Duffy burgers and other lunchables, plus games and activities for children and raffles for adults. Santa will arrive by fire truck at about noon.
For more information, call 941-778-1908.

• Dec. 4, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra presents the Taste of Holiday Gal at the Villa Alexia, 518 58th St., Holmes Beach. Tickets are $50.
For more information and tickets, call 941-778-8585.

• Dec. 10, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Anna Maria businesses host a citywide holiday open house. Participating businesses will stay open extended hours to toast the season, and children can visit with Santa Claus.
For more information, call 941-779-9108.

• Dec. 11, 10 a.m., the Anna Maria Island Privateers Christmas Parade takes place, traveling from Bayfront Park in Anna Maria to Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.
All floats must be staged by 9:30 a.m. and all entries must be motorized.
There is no charge to participate in the parade.
For more information, call 941-752-5973.

• Dec. 11, 11 a.m., the Anna Maria Island Privateers host a post-parade Christmas party at Coquina Beach, where Santa Claus will visit with children and hand out presents.
Also, the Privateers will provide a free lunch of hot dogs and soda pop for children.
For more information, call 941-752-5973.

• Dec. 11-12, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Anna Maria Island Art League features a wide variety of artists offering items to deck the halls throughout the year.
The annual Winterfest will take place at Holmes Beach City Hall field, 5801 Marina Drive, and feature what AMIAL executive director Holly Collier describes as “one-of-a-kind holiday gifts.”
For more information, call 941-778-2099.

• Dec. 14, 10:30 a.m., the Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria, hosts the 16th annual Lawton Chiles Kids Christmas Party, featuring lunch and a visit from a Santa Claus bearing gifts — a holiday outfit and toys — for under-privileged children.
For more information, or to help with presenting the party, call 941-778-8710.

• Dec. 18, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., the Anna Maria Island Moose Lodge No. 2188, Bradenton Beach, hosts a holiday party for children 10 and under.
Santa will hand out presents, and the Moose will deliver lunch.
Pre-registration is required at the lodge by Dec. 11.
For more information, call 941-778-4110.

• Dec. 18, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., the Bridge Street Merchants hosts the annual Christmas on Bridge Street celebration, featuring visits with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, raffles, a children’s gift bazaar, carols and holiday specials in the stores and restaurants.
For more information, call 941-778-8705.

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