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Date of Issue: December 14, 2006

Santa, pirates draw crowd

Parade funday pic

Annual Christmas Parade and Fun Day photos, Click here.

The Island celebrated the holiday season in "yo, ho, ho" fashion Dec. 9.

Santa Claus arrived on a sleigh, shouting "Merry Christmas" and the privateers arrived aboard a wheeled ship, shouting "argh" and "ahoy."

Saturday morning began with the annual Christmas Parade from Anna Maria through Holmes Beach to Bradenton Beach. There, at Coquina Beach, the celebration continued with the Lesters' Holiday Fun Day, with music, games and prizes, and food.

The Anna Maria Island Privateers, The Islander newspaper and Chuck and Joey Lester on behalf of the Anna Maria Island Community Center presented the day's events.

The parade was a relatively fast-moving motorcade with participants clad mostly in red, white and green and tossing beads, toys and candy to the crowds along the route. Parade-goers saw representatives from many local businesses, governments and community organizations.

At the corner of Gulf Drive and Spring in Anna Maria, the Mullen family watched for their friends in the parade.

"That's something I enjoy," said Josey Mullen, of Anna Maria. "In a small place like this, you see your friends and neighbors out there in the parade. That's fun."

Dylan Mullen, 5, saw some friends in the parade. But more importantly he saw Santa Claus, he said.

"I thought I already saw him once at the mall," Dylan said. "But that looks like the real one."

So Dylan, like many others, trailed the piper and the parade to Coquina Beach, where Santa took requests aboard the Privateers ship and Privateer helpers handed out toys.

Brian Scott Greer, 5, of Bradenton, stood first in a long line to converse with Santa Claus at Fun Day. He asked for a Batman computer for Christmas and promised he'd been good.

Fun day participants purchased raffle tickets for a chance at prizes and feasted on the Privateer's hot dogs and Duffy's hamburgers.

At picnic tables, children busied themselves with making Christmas cards, decorating Christmas cookies and playing with bean bags.

A goal was to drum up support for the community center, which is continuing its capital campaign to pay for a new facility in Anna Maria. The Lesters, in partnership with The Islander, issued a holiday-timed challenge - offering to match $50,000 in community donations made to the Center by Dec. 31.

"Well I just want to say it's a wonderful merry Christmas they've given me," said Agatha Shue, a vacationer from California, as she stuffed $10 into a donation jar.