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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Holiday celebration kicks off Friday

With music and gifts and games, the 2004 holidays get a running start Friday evening, Dec. 3, with open house in the Holmes Beach business district.

It will be followed next day with the Privateers' Christmas parade, open house on Bridge Street, the lighted boat parade in the evening, and the climactic fireworks extravaganza at the boat parade conclusion Saturday night.

There is still time if you hurry to register for both of the parades, land and sea. For the Privateers affair, call 752-5973. For the boat parade, call 778-7978.

Bridge Street's open house will be all day Dec. 4, from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. along Bradenton Beach's main street. Santa will be there from 12:30-3:30 p.m., merchants will have drawings, local artisans will be in the galleries, Bridgewalk Resort will have a "holiday room."

The mid-Island open house Friday night will be from 5-8 p.m. in the "business district" of Marina Drive's intersection with Gulf Drive. The businesses of the area will stay open late to entertain visitors, a Christmas tree will be lighted at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce building.

Face painters, Santa Claus, Saggy Aggy and any number of additional entertainers will be on hand for kids and elders, and there will be drawings for baskets filled by the merchants. Entries are available at participating stores.

Much of the electricity of Christmas will be provided by music. The Manatee High School chamber orchestra will play in front of The Islander office, and the Hobbitts and then Eric von Hahmann will play at S&S Plaza.

The chamber orchestra is a select group of the better string performers of the big orchestra, said the school, noting that it is so named because in antiquity such aggregations played in chambers of palaces.

Von Hahmann, gifted teen composer, guitarist and vocalist from Cortez, will be in front of Mister Roberts Resort Wear store at the south end of the shopping area.

He will start about 6 p.m., picking up where the young Hobbitts band leaves off. They are to play at the same spot starting at 5 p.m.

The performers hope for the generosity of the guests in the form of tips for their "play."

The Christmas parade will assemble by 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, at Bayfront Park in Anna Maria, but the man in charge asks that paraders get there as much before that as they can. Greg Luzier said he needs all the time he can get to get the paraders in proper order.

Only wheeled vehicles may participate, he noted, because the parade route is too long for marchers. It will stretch from Bayfront Park along Gulf Drive to Marina Drive to Manatee Avenue to Gulf Drive again all the way to Coquina Beach.

Cannon fire from the Privateers ship float will launch the parade at 10 a.m., Luzier said. The Island's old-style fire truck, Red Hat Society ladies, retirement group members astride bicycles, and who knows just what will follow. The Privateers sleigh, with its 25-foot reindeer and Santa Claus aboard, will bring up the end of the parade. At Coquina Beach, Santa will distribute presents and see that everyone is fed.

The Islander lighted boat parade still has room for vessels of all sizes and configurations, decorated in the holiday motif. The boats will assemble Saturday evening at two places and carry on from there, uniting ultimately into one impressive fleet whose finale will be Jim Taylor's fireworks display.

The north boats will gather at 6 p.m. at Bimini Bay, sail up the canal to Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, back to Key Royale Bridge, to Rod & Reel Pier and back to Anna Maria City Pier.

Meanwhile, the southern armada will rendezvous in the Intracoastal Waterway off the Bradenton Beach City Pier, and at 5:30 p.m. head through the Cortez Bridge, up the Intracoastal, past Kingfish Boat Ramp, the elementary school and to Key Royale to join the Bimini group at the moth of Bimini Bay.

The Coast Guard auxiliary flotilla and law enforcement boats will lead the entire fleet to the Anna Maria City Pier, then Rod & Reel and ultimately back to the city pier for the fireworks.

The parade finale will again this Christmas season be a big, bright and noisy spectacle of fireworks starting about 7:30 p.m.

The fireworks are sponsored by supportive local businesses, including its organizer, The Islander newspaper.

Also providing support are the Rod & Reel Pier and Anna Maria City Pier Restaurant, Rotten Ralph's Restaurant, An Island Place Realty, Marina Pointe Realty, Sandy Rich Real Coffee and Realty, Mama Lo's and Two Sides of Nature.