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Privateers rally to defend, keep Santa’s sleigh

By Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporter

From over the bow, “Help Rescue Santa’s Sleigh” is the newest rallying cry from the Anna Maria Island Privateers.

The Privateers — the island crew known for its scholarship donations, colorful attire and fun parades and parties — is looking to raise money at two Christmas in July celebrations.

The crew needs money to defend a lawsuit filed earlier this month by former Privateer Richard Maddox, who claims ownership of the sleigh — a modified boat trailer.

“To some it may seem like a sleigh is not all that important,” Privateers media liaison Lisa “Lash” Ritchey stated in a press release July 20.

But when it comes to the Privateers, she continued, “their Santa Sleigh is used almost as much between Thanksgiving and New Years as the Skullywag is used all year long.”

A separate fundraising effort has targeted repairs for the crew’s ailing float/boat.

The Privateers’ sleigh fundraising effort is the focus of the first Christmas in July celebration, planned for 3-7 p.m. Saturday, July 28, at Fish Hole Miniature Golf, 115 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach.

Santa will distribute gifts and be on hand for photos. Pirates will be posted at the sleigh to accept donations for the campaign.

The second holiday-themed event starts at 6 p.m. at the Drift In, 120 Bridge St., Bradenton. The celebration features a potluck Christmas dinner and Santa’s arrival at 7 p.m. Those attending are asked to bring a dish of food to share.

According to the Privateers press release, they are “a bunch of volunteer pirates and wenches.” Privateer events include W.H. “Snooks” Adams Kids Day, the Christmas parade and party with Santa, Holmes Beach holiday open house and the July 4 parade and scholarship program.

The Privateers also help a needy family every Christmas by providing holiday dinners, and a visit from Santa, who arrives at their home with a sleigh full of gifts.

Maddox filed suit against the nonprofit July 11 seeking the return of a boat trailer he claims to have modified for use as a “float or ride at parades, festivals and community functions” and lent to the Privateers.

The suit alleges the trailer — Santa’s sleigh — is valued at $4,500, and the Privateers either failed or refused to return it.

The Privateers said, “We have just recently been served and are working with our attorney Amy Kenyon of the Kenyon Law Group. We have no comment at this time and will make a statement when we are prepared.”

AMIP accepts donations sent directly to the organization, and asks that donors specify the purpose on the check.

For more information, call 941-238-8974 or go online at  HYPERLINK “http://www.amiprivateers.org” www.amiprivateers.org.

And half-way mark reached on ship repairs

More than $5,300 has been raised for repairs to the Anna Maria Island Privateers’ boat/float, the Skullywag.

The Privateers announced last month the Skullywag — the 60-foot-long boat/float flagship that travels in parades and to other festivals and events, and usually parks at the Holmes Beach public works building when not on a merry-making mission — is in need of repairs.

The estimated cost of an overhaul has been raised to $10,000, according to Lisa “Lash” Ritchey, media liaison for the nonprofit organization that sponsors area youth and community events.

“I know how fricken old it is, and $5,000 is a big part of what’s needed,” said Privateer MaryAnn “Maz” Zyla-Smith. The first repairs will be safety-oriented, with aesthetics secondary, she added.

The recent fundraising for the ship came from $3,150 in proceeds at a June 29 concert in Holmes Beach, including sales of Scurvy Dogs, Buck-N-Ear Corn, rum, grog and other refreshments, and more than $2,200 in donations to the club, according to Ritchey.

The Privateers are “thrilled with the support” from the community, and hope to bring the Skullywag — in operation since 2001 — back to its original state to last another 20 years, she said.

Heading up the repairs is incoming Privateers president, Larry Ackerman. He said the Skullywag needs a new motor, a rebuilt transmission, and this work is estimated at $5,000-$6,000.

The vessel’s electrical and air-conditioning systems also need repairs, especially to make it bearable to be in the cabin, which is now “like a sauna.”

“As money comes in, we’re thinking we might as well keep going with repairs,” he said, adding that Skullywag’s fuel efficiency also needs improving.

Ackerman said people have offered to donate work and expertise.

“The public has really jumped on board. It’s all about kids and community. And it’s making a difference,” he said.

The Skullywag is like a “rolling billboard for Anna Maria Island,” Ackerman said.

Donations for the “Save Our Skullywag” fund can be made online at www.amiprivateers.org, or mailed to AMI Privateers, P.O. Box 1238, Holmes Beach FL 34218, with a specific SOS notation.

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