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Date of Issue: July 29, 2009

Chamber, city to partner on Founders Day, festival

Holmes Beach Founders Day would grow in 2010 under a partnership between the city and the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce.

“The chamber has agreed to help us put together next year’s Founders celebration,” Bohnenberger said.

And the partnership would benefit the campaign to keep the Island trolley service fare-free, because the Founders Day activities would be a highlight of the Anna Maria Island Real Florida Festival under a proposal being worked out by chamber and city officials.

The festival is a new Island event, proposed as part of the Save Our Trolley campaign to keep the transportation system — popular with Islanders and visitors — free to passengers.

Earlier this summer, county officials proposed charging a fare on the trolley to help balance the 2009-10 county budget, and spending plans going forward.

But Islanders are rallying to keep the trolley fare-free, endorsing a plan offered by Bradenton Beach businessman David Teitelbaum, a member of the chamber board as well as the Manatee County Tourist Development Council.

Teitelbaum proposed a combination of public/private funding that includes contributions from the TDC and the Island cities, as well as donation boxes on the trolleys, a more aggressive marketing and advertising campaign that includes “naming rights” and an annual festival — the Real Florida Festival.

The festival tentatively would take place in April 2010.

Events would include a Founders Day open house at Holmes Beach City Hall and a Holmes Beach 60th anniversary celebration at Holmes Beach City Hall Field with artists and food and beverage vendors, as well as live music and a karaoke contest.

The Bridge Street Market in Bradenton Beach would be part of the festival, as well as a Taste of Anna Maria event at the Studio at Gulf and Pine in Anna Maria, a fishing tournament, a golf tournament, a kayaking event and an all-Island scavenger hunt.

Festivalgoers would purchase a Real Florida Festival “passport” for $5 for access to most events. Some events, however, would also require tickets and an additional fee.

The Founders Day would be the third annual celebration of the city’s history and its citizens.

The first Founders Day celebration took place in the spring of 2008, with a morning reception at city hall and a dedication of the skate park.

This year, Founders Day included a reception with members of the Anna Maria Island Community Chorus and Orchestra providing music, the dedication of a tree to the late Helen Hagen, the presentation of the Community Partner Award to Sean Murphy and an art exhibit.

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said when he started Founders Day that he wanted the event to grow.

The area that is now Holmes Beach was homesteaded in 1896 by Sam and Annie Cobb, whose daughter, Anna Maria, apparently was the first non-native child born on the Island. Other early “settlers” included Capt. John R. Jones, George Emerson Bean and Jose Casanas.

Holmes Beach was not incorporated for another five decades, with Halsey T. Tichenor serving as the city’s first mayor. Incorporation took place on April 5, 1950.

Two years before the city’s incorporation, developer Jack Holmes began to create a 600-acre community in the center of Anna Maria Island. He also built an airstrip for small planes, which was one of the draws for Hollywood producers of “On An Island With You,” starring Esther Williams and Peter Lawford and filmed in part on the Island.

By 1950, Holmes had 180 homes on the market in the area that became Holmes Beach and locals were predicting rapid development. Thus, that same year, Anna Maria Elementary School was built on Gulf Drive, with Lena Phelps serving as the first principal.