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July 4 holiday runs head-on into post-holiday problems

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Rain washes out beachgoers, adds to traffic jam Imagine everyone in the scene above — except Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer on the ATV — leaves the beach at once. That’s just what happened when thunderstorms swept across Anna Maria Island about 2 p.m. July 5, causing an exodus from beaches and outdoor activities. Holmes Beach police reported southbound motorists stacked up in Holmes Beach to Pine Avenue in Anna Maria. Islander Photos: Top, Edna Tiemann; bottom, Rick Catlin

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer and Mayor Carmel Monti, far right, load up bags of trash July 5. Holmes Beach resident Adrienne Garcia stopped to get a photo in appreciation of public officials taking their service to the next level. Islander Courtesy Photo

Manatee County Sheriff’s deputy Steve Stewart of the Anna Maria substation stands beside some fireworks confiscated July 4. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Trash bins at the beach access at 74th Street in Holmes Beach are filled to capacity following the July 4 beach celebrations. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Rain washes out beachgoers, adds to traffic jam Imagine everyone in the scene above — except Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer on the ATV — leaves the beach at once. That’s just what happened when thunderstorms swept across Anna Maria Island about 2 p.m. July 5, causing an exodus from beaches and outdoor activities. Holmes Beach police reported southbound motorists stacked up in Holmes Beach to Pine Avenue in Anna Maria. Islander Photos: Top, Edna Tiemann; bottom, Rick Catlin

Just when law enforcement thought a bang-up holiday, filled with fireworks on the beaches up and down the 7-mile length of Anna Maria Island had passed without major incident, by July 5 there were major traffic issues and a somber event on the beach — a drowning.

Other than a reported fight that led to an arrest in Holmes Beach, HBPD Police Chief Bill Tokajer said July 4 passed without major incident.

Tokajer said the typical issues of illegal parking and visitors lighting off their own fireworks on the beaches kept his officers fairly busy but, “There were no major issues. For the most part, everybody that participated in the holiday celebration was well behaved.”

Tokajer said the annual Anna Maria Island Privateers Independence Day Parade went smoothly and “was wonderful. The mayor and I also went out on the beaches on the morning of July 5 to help with the cleanup.”

The chief said there was a lot of litter left on the beaches following the celebrating, but the waste was not as bad as he expected for an “active” holiday.

“It wasn’t anywhere near as bad I thought it would be when we went out on the beach,” he said. “But we did pile up garbage bags about 4 feet high on the back of the Polaris. Most of it was used fireworks.”

Tokajer and Mayor Carmel Monti took their public service roles to the next level by joining cleanup crews July 5. Residents took time to say “hello,” take photos and “a lot of people saw what we were doing and joined in to help the cleanup,” said Tokajer.

In Bradenton Beach, Lt. John Cosby reported a relatively mild holiday.

“I’ve seen much busier Fourth of July holidays,” he said. “I think the rain kept a lot of people away. It was actually busier on July 5, so I think people split up their vacation days to spend some time on the island and do other things.”

Cosby said there were no major incidents and everybody visiting the city for the holiday “was good.”

In Anna Maria, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies stayed busy July 4 with confiscation of illegal fireworks and removing some alcohol and grills on the beach, said MCSO Sgt. Paul Davis, head of the Anna Maria substation.

“It was very busy, especially with confiscating illegal fireworks. But it was a safe July 4, and we had no reports of any injuries or altercations,” Davis said.

Several citations were issued, he said, but most people took the fireworks confiscation in stride.

Davis and other MCSO deputies assisted with the rescue of 12 swimmers in the Gulf of Mexico north of the Sandbar Restaurant off Sycamore Avenue around 3:30 p.m. July 4, but all swimmers were safely brought to shore.

“We handled crowd control to ensure medical teams had access to the swimmers. Everything turned out fine and we’re glad of that,” he said.

On July 5, HBPD was reporting traffic gridlock, and officers were controlling traffic at some of the signaled intersections.

On July 6, MCSO deputies, marine units and the department’s helicopter took part in the search for the missing 14-year-old boy from Winter Haven who was found drowned July 7.

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