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Date of Issue: December 03, 2008

Island books Santa visits

Santa heads south
Santa Claus pays a visit to the mainland Nov. 21, stopping for a preview party at Sarasota Jungle Gardens' Holiday Lights and Jungle Nights extravaganza and to ask Florida vacationer Jackie Mutter what's on her wish list. The event continues through Dec. 28. This month, Santa will make at least five trips to Anna Maria Island. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Seasonal residents are on the return.

Holiday vacationers are growing in number.

And one traveler has Anna Maria Island on his December itinerary at least five times.

Islanders can catch up with Santa Claus on Dec. 5 in Holmes Beach, where the downtown merchants will usher in the Christmas season with an annual holiday walk, providing refreshments, entertainment and some deals for shoppers.

At The Islander office, Santa will visit with youngsters and offer treats with the help of the Anna Maria Island Privateers.

The next day, Dec. 6, Santa Claus is expected to put in an appearance at Lester—The Islander Family Fun Day at the Anna Maria Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

Santa Claus also will spend much of the day on the Island on Dec. 13, when he will star in the Anna Maria Island Privateers Christmas Parade, hand out gifts at the post-parade party at Coquina Beach and then put in an appearance at Christmas on Bridge Street from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Bradenton Beach.

The parade is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at Bayfront Park in Anna Maria City and head south, traveling through Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach to conclude at Coquina Beach.

After the parade, children and adults are invited to attend the Privateers’ party with Santa at Coquina, where Santa holds court on the group’s ship.

Later in the day, merchants will open their doors for extended hours to welcome Santa and visitors for the Christmas on Bridge Street, which this year may include the outdoor screening of a holiday movie.

That evening, from the Historic Bridge Street Pier, people can watch the Cortez Yacht Club’s lighted boat parade.

Santa’s fourth scheduled appearance on the Island is from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Sandbar Restaurant for the annual Lawton Chiles Christmas for Kids Party.

Organizers of the party, which welcomes about 100 children from Head Start and Healthy Families Manatee, are collecting cash donations to put toward the purchase of gifts for kids.

Attending children have a turkey dinner and then receive a pair of shoes, an outfit and a toy from Santa, who arrives on West Manatee Fire Rescue truck.

And the fifth scheduled appearance?

That would be Islandwide on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.