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Date of Issue: October 25, 2007

Bayfest brings out crowds

Fishing for a prize: Toto competed as a "fisherdog" in The Islander dog costume contest.
Muscle and mallet: Ethan Mata, 4, of Bradenton, readies to swing the mallet to show off his muscle and win a prize at the seventh annual Bayfest festival in Anna Maria Oct. 20. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff
Pine Avenue parade: A lineup of classic cars at Bayfest draws a parade of people to Pine Avenue Oct. 20.
Barking at Bayfest: Oct. 20 at Bayfest began with The Islander's dog costume contest, also sponsored by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage with prizes donated by the DeSoto Animal Clinic and others. The contest drew costumed canines - from a Miss America to a "bull pig" to a Gator fan, as well as one guinea pig - Fluffy the princess. The event was organized by Olivia Willis and Michele Coutant of Wells Fargo and The Islander staff. Help at the contest came from 10-year-olds Emma Terry and Alley Hathaway.

Some went to Bayfest for the retail and some for the reggae.

Some went to the Pine Avenue party for the children’s playground and others for the adult beverages.

Still others savored the tastes of the island, enthused over the classic cars, wowed over costumed dogs, critiqued arts and crafts and studied causes and missions at the community agency booths.

“You can see everyone you ever met on this Island at Bayfest,” festival chair Cindy Thompson said of the event, which marked its seventh year Oct.19-20.

The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce presented two days of Bayfest - a kick-off party on Friday night and a daylong celebration on Saturday with more than 100 vendors - on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria.

Bayfest proceeds will benefit not-for-profit and Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce scholarship funds. Specifically, money from the children’s playground will go to a pre-paid college fund for the son of the widely respected late Holmes Beach police officer Pete Lannon, said Thompson.

Friday night bites at Bayfest included hot dogs and burgers cooked by the Anna Maria Island Privateers, brats and chicken served by Brass Bell Catering and nachos and tacos served by Pico de Gallo, as well as wine, beer, soda and H20.

Saturday’s extended menu covered the range of festival fair -iced lemonade, salty margaritas, ice cream and tarts, fried seafood and grilled steak.

While the food stands were nestled near the east end of the festival, convenient to the music stage, there were blocks of booths for area businesses, non-profit groups and artists marketing their causes, goods and services to the public.

For Annie Taylor, a new Island resident, the Bayfest served as a stand-in for “Welcome Wagon.” She left the festival with a variety of brochures for service groups, including Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch, Manatee County Democrats, the local Rotary Club and the Art League of Anna Maria Island.

“Everyone seems so friendly,” Taylor said as she made her way toward Bay Boulevard.

Some organizations, such as the Anna Maria Island Privateers, accomplished more than one goal with Bayfest - promoting the charitable group’s work while entertaining young and old from the Skullywag parked at Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard.

The display of gleaming old cars near Pine Avenue and North Shore Drive also provided a source of entertainment, as well as stoked some memories and nostalgic sentiments.

“This car was my make-out car,” said Bruce Griffin, looking at his reflection in the hood of a banana-colored 1969 Chevy Camaro.

“He’s always been a Chevy man,” Griffin’s wife, Sarah, added.

At the Roser Memorial Community Church grounds, youngsters made new memories, playing games in the children’s area. Some left a tent with their faces painted in jungle camouflage or in patriotic hues; some left the playground with oversized prizes under their arms.

“I won this,” Jason Archer, 7, said of a blown-up pink donkey about his height that he won from a game.

Bands on the nearby stage provided background music for the playing kids.

“I really come to the festival for the music,” said Rebecca Starkey. “We moved down from St. Louis a couple of years ago where music was everywhere and I miss that. So I look forward to this every year.”

“Welcome to your favorite Island and mine,” a member of the Project SRQ band announced from the stage at Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard on Friday night. His welcome began two days of music-making that featured the jazz band, as well as the Dr. Dave Band, Jimi Gee and Friends, Bootleg Reggae, Koko Ray and the Soul Providers and Michael Mac.

The Dr. Dave Band provided insurance that a strong crowd turned out Friday night.

“I love these guys,” said Tina Matthews, as she tipped a ragged cowboy hat toward the band on stage.

“Dude, it’s fun,” said Matthews’ 12-year-old son, Pete. Pete and several friends tried to create a mosh pit to dance to the band’s blend of country, bluegrass and classic rock. They competed for dance space with some two-steppers, line-dancers and bootie-shakers.

“I wouldn’t mind this once a month,” said Bradenton Beach resident Carly Hawkins.

Anna Maria resident Lynne Merriwhether agreed. “I think it’s a great crowd and it sure is great fun,” she said.

Organizers and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office estimated that Bayfest drew about 10,500 people - 2,000 on Friday night and 8,500 on Saturday.