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Date of Issue: July 13, 2006

Arts show at Coquina Beach canceled by city

Citing commercial and private gain for use of public property, Bradenton Beach city commissioners denied a permit to an arts and crafts festival at Coquina Beach planned by its promoter for last weekend.

T-N-T Events, a Fort McCoy, Fla.-based company, had scheduled a juried "Coquina Beach Art and Craft Festival" July 8-9 at the beach. Tina Branford with the organization said she hoped to have about 50 exhibitors at the two-day affair.

Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department officials had approved the event, she said, and she learned at the 11th hour that Bradenton Beach officials also had to approve and issue a permit for the event. She appeared before the city commission last Thursday for approval.

City staff had offered no objection to the event, with the exception of requesting an off-duty police officer be present for the affair.

But city commissioners balked at issuing an event permit. While similar functions have been held at Coquina Beach in recent years, they have generally been in association with an Island-based charitable organization, such as the Privateers or Wildlife Inc.

Although Branford said, "Our company will donate to Tingley Memorial Library," the Bradenton Beach library was not an active participant in the event. In fact, Library Clerk Eveann Adams said she was unaware of the event or of the library being a benefactor.

"I can't approve a commercial event on public property," Mayor John Chappie said.

"I believe we'd be opening up a whole can of worms," Commissioner John Shaughnessy added. Commissioners eventually denied the special event request for the art show 4-1, with Vice Mayor Lisa Maria Phillips voting in favor of the function.

"I'm just frustrated at this moment," Branford said after the decision. "I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I can't believe what happened, and I hope to work something out in the future."

She said she would have to make "a good restitution to the exhibitors. One man came down on a bus from New York."

Several callers to The Islander, including one from a vendor who had been notified of the cancellation, were bewildered by the sudden action and asked if it was true that the event was canceled.

City commissioners have been critical of Manatee County officials permitting events at Coquina Beach without city approval in the past few months. County officials had approved an overnight cancer benefit originally planned for May 5, only to be told by city officials that the function would not be appropriate during Cinco de Mayo, a Latino celebration that draws thousands of people to the beach.

County officials also approved an event last month at the beach, only to be informed by city officials that the event was being advertised as a party featuring live bands, That event was then canceled by the county.