A rear-end collision that resulted in an SUV jumping the curb onto the sidewalk at about 5:45 p.m. Sunday on the Anna Maria Island Bridge caused traffic to back up in all directions for more than 2 1/2 hours. There were no injuries. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy.
A sea of folks focused on seafood, sunshine, music and crafts at the weekend Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, all wrapped this year around the FISH Preserve, Florida Maritime Museum and the Banyas’ commercial property. Islander Photos: Bonner Joy
A handpainted sign welcomes Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival attendees to the main gate, where admission of $2 provides a day of endless entertainment, seafood, refreshments, arts and crafts.
Return visitors from Massachusetts are greeted at the festival booth sponsored by Mike Rappaport, owner of Cabana Banana in Bradenton Beach. The restaurant has bragging rights from a previous year’s cooking contest to “best crab cakes.”
Bull-rider Cameron Belanger, 5, of Bradenton, holds on for the entire “slowed up” for Cortez kids version of the popular ride.
Workers serve up helpings of stone crab claws and “put the rum in the coconut” for adult festivalgoers.
When engineers examined the Historic Bridge Street Pier several years ago, they informed city officials that the structure east of the restaurant must be replaced within five years.
The clock has tick-tocked through three years already, Bradenton Beach city commissioners and Mayor Bob Bartelt emphasized last week.
The commissioners and mayor, sitting as the city community redevelopment agency Feb. 16, discussed the pending replacement of the pier, specifically the railings, planks and pilings east of Rotten Ralph’s restaurant.
The CRA has focused in recent months on two projects — improving the beach access and dunes walkover at Bridge Street and Third Street South and expanding public parking between Church and Highland avenues near the public works and police departments.
Construction work will begin March 1 on the Bridge Street dunes walkover and the city lot recently was cleared for the parking expansion.
So last week, the CRA turned its focus to the major task of replacing the pier.
The wooden pier was constructed in the footprint of the first bridge to the Island, a bascule bridge built in 1922, said Sissy Quinn of the Anna Maria Island Preservation Trust.
The wooden bridge was used until the 1950s, when the existing Cortez Bridge was built, added Quinn, who did the research on the pier and secured its Florida Master Site status.
Several years ago, the city completed the renovation of the landside section of the pier, which had been damaged in a storm. The rebuilt portion consists of the restaurant, rest rooms and a bait shop.
Once that project is paid off — in December 2012 in loan payments of about $500,000 a year from CRA funds — the city is likely to invest CRA money to replace the extension used by fishers.
“What’s past the dining room needs to go,” said Mayor Bob Bartelt.
Estimates put the replacement cost at $500,000 to $750,000, depending on the materials used, said public works director Tom Woodard. The highest cost would involve using a more durable composite material rather than wood for the planks.
In the meantime, commissioners agreed, the city should begin saving CRA funds for the project, as well as investigate additional revenue sources.
“We need to have the money,” said Commissioner Janie Robertson. “We need to find it, plan for it, allocate it.”
City clerk Nora Idso said in drafting the fiscal 2011-12 budget, the commission could consider setting aside funding for the pier. “Definitely this year at budget time we can put some toward that,” she said.
Rent paid for the pier concession, about $8,000 a month, goes mainly toward routine pier maintenance and is not viable revenue for the pier replacement, Idso noted.
One additional potential revenue source could be a campaign to sell engraved planks for a new pier, Bartelt said, noting that he had spoken with Islander publisher Bonner Joy about a partnership campaign.
The Islander is working with the City Pier Restaurant to sell engraved, replacement planks on the Anna Maria structure and raise money for a fireworks display during the pier centennial in May.
“I really like the idea,” said Commissioner Gay Breuler. “It does a bunch of things. …Besides bringing in money, it’s advertising.”
Commissioners suggested that Bartelt meet with Joy to further discuss the concept, and find out whether composite planks can be engraved.
Commissioners also agreed to keep the pier project at the top of their priority list.
Planning for the May 13-14 Anna Maria City Pier Centennial Celebration is on schedule, with the pier committee now meeting twice monthly until the event.
After hearing reports of the planned activities at the committee’s Feb. 14 meeting, committee chair Sissy Quinn said the work required “can be mind-boggling at times, but we are going to have a great event.”
The activities begin at 6 p.m. May 13 with an Anna Maria Island Privateers parade from CrossePointe Fellowship up Gulf Drive, then along Pine Avenue to the pier at Bay Boulevard.
Caryn Hodge, who is organizing the inaugural Anna Maria Food and Cultural Festival on Pine Avenue May 14 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., said 25 food vendors have signed up, and there could be more within the next few weeks. The maximum for the food festival is 30, she noted.
Ed Chiles, owner of the Sandbar, BeachHouse and Mar Vista restaurants, is underwriting the cost of the food festival, which he said he hopes will become an annual event.
Hodge also presented a draft plan for setting up Pine Avenue for the festival.
The plan shows where food vendors, artists, entertainers, ticket booths, first-aid stations, information stalls and a beer garden would be located. A VIP tent will be adjacent to the beer garden, which is planned for the northwest corner of the Pine Avenue-Bay Boulevard intersection.
Hodge said about 15 wine distributors will be paired with food vendors.
“It’s only a draft,” Hodge said, “but it gives us something to work with.”
Local artists also will be along Pine Avenue, displaying and selling their works. Actors in period costume will perform skits at different Pine Avenue intersections.
A space for children’s activities under the direction of the Anna Maria Island Community Center is planned and artwork from students at Anna Maria Elementary School will be displayed.
Hodge and Sandy Mattick head up the advertising and marketing campaign, and will soon have flyers at many Island locations announcing the centennial celebration.
Mattick also has a website planned — piercentennial.com — that will be linked to the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and Islander newspaper website. She plans to contact other outlets to propose a link to the centennial on their websites.
Hodge said advertising for the food event will be regional. Ads will be placed in Florida magazines, newspapers and on websites.
“We are advertising for the food event, but including everything taking place” for the celebration, Hodge said.
She reassured Quinn that Chiles cover those advertising costs.
Hodge also requested more volunteers to help with ticket sales and comfort stations, and that owners of golf carts volunteer their services for the centennial.
Proceeds from the food festival will be donated to Island charities after expenses are met.
Islander publisher Bonner Joy reported that the first round of engraved planks sold by the newspaper in partnership with the pier were installed at the pier and the second 100 are with the engraver.
A VIP party and $10,000 fireworks show sponsored by The Islander and the City Pier Restaurant is scheduled after sunset May 14 to end the celebration is to be funded by the plank sales.
After hearing all the reports, Quinn said the next few months are going to be busy for the committee and volunteers.
“Now, it’s time to put the pedal to the medal and meet every two weeks,” she said.
Members and volunteers agreed.
The next committee meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Feb. 28 at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.
A countdown is under way for Coquina Beach, where a county-directed project to add sand to the shoreline will begin March 1.
Manatee County natural resources director Charlie Hunsicker briefed Bradenton Beach commissioners Feb. 17 on the renourishment project.
He also reviewed other short-term and long-term plans to deal with the “net loss of sand each and every year” from Anna Maria Island beaches.
On March 1, Hunsicker said Great Lakes Dock and Dredge of Chicago will begin pumping sand from Tampa Bay to a small section of beach in Anna Maria and longer stretches of Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.
The work, estimated to cost $6.9 million, should be completed by May 1, the official start date for the turtle-nesting season, when beaches, by law, must be clear of hazards and obstacles.
Hunsicker, who earlier this year briefed Anna Maria commissioners on renourishment plans, said this year’s project will not require pipes to run long lengths on the beaches.
“We’ll place a pipeline on the sea floor” to get the sand from the north end of the Island to the south end, he said.
Hunsicker also touted the quality of the sand — good consistency, without lots of shells, from southern Tampa Bay off the northern tip of the Island.
Renourishment in Anna Maria will replace sand lost during the 2004 storm season and is deemed a Federal Emergency Management Agency project.
The county is “piggybacking” on the federal project to add sand to two long, severely eroded sections of Coquina Beach.
A map of Coquina shows a gap in the renourishment project because of the existence of a sensitive, nearshore reef. The beach at that spot will be built up landward of the water line, but no sand will be added to cover the rocky reef.
Because the Coquina project does involve some rock coverage elsewhere near the shore, the county will build an offshore 8-acre artificial reef to the north of Cortez Beach.
Another plan for shoreline protection at Coquina, as well as tool to improve conditions at Longboat Pass, involves the reconstruction of the jetty on the south end of the beach at the pass.
“It’s showing its age,” Hunsicker said of the structure, built circa 1963. “I suspect we’ve been blessed not having a real aggressive storm. It’s holding its own by its own weight.… But sand flows through. That shouldn’t be happening.”
Reconstruction could cost as much as $3 million, Hunsicker said, and is a long-term goal. Before plans are drawn for a new jetty, a test will be performed on the old jetty. Geotubes — think of super-sized socks filled with sand — will be installed to keep sand from washing down from Coquina Beach into the pass.
“We’ll lay those on the north side of the jetty,” Hunsicker said. “The tubes last four to five years.”
The test will determine the type of jetty needed at the location.
As Hunsicker concluded his report, the mayor and commissioners inquired about the fate of an Islandwide renourishment project planned for 2014-15.
Hunsicker said there are questions about federal and state funding. However, he emphasized, the AMI project is ranked fourth out of about 60 on a state priority list and is at No. 6 on a federal list for Florida.
“We can never predicate how much money will be available, “Hunsicker said. “But we are positioned in the best possible way should money become available.”
Nashville was where Mike Sales thought he would find his musical groove when he struck out on his own after touring for six years with his cover band, Crashparty.
While he didn’t burn up the town with his musical talent, he did cultivate a strong business acumen.
But feeling stuck in a rut of night club management, Sales traveled with a friend with ties in Ellenton to Florida with visions of opening a club. Little did he know, a laidback Island on Florida’s Gulf Coast would provide his perfect storm — just the right mix to stir up a recording career.
In the five years since he first moved to Anna Maria Island, Sales has come a long way — from seeing club owners who asked, “Who is this guy looking for gig?” to settling in behind the microphone at several Island venues, including the Sandbar and BeachHouse restaurants.
“I’ve found Anna Maria Island an awesome place to live and work,” he said. “The people here are so receptive, the audience participates and business owners are not just accessible, but are nice. It’s a perfect place to make a living.”
Sales said he worked hard to carve out a niche for himself on the Island music scene and, now he’s to seeing positive results from applying his business acumen to the art of entertaining.
On Wednesday, Feb. 23, Sales will not only debut his first recorded album, “Howling with Mike Sales,” but he also will debut his band, Mike Sales and the Restless Natives.
Sales has been performing as a solo artist, but adding a live rhythm section with John Dewey on bass and Scott Blum on drums provides new opportunities to perform his “beachified” music.
“Beachified music gets right into the song but is still laid back,” said Sales. “People on the Island like to come to the party early and my musical arrangements aren’t filled with a lot of solos. I like to keep them engaged with the song and keep the energy up on the dance floor.”
Sales is building a name for himself as “Mr. Anna Maria Island” after a reporter coined the name in an article about the Island singer. The title resonated with him in the tradition of Don Ho of Hawaii and Wayne Newton of Las Vegas, whose musical styles became synonymous with a geographic location.
Sales aims to brand himself as the Island’s foremost beach crooner. At the same, time his ambitions are not wholly centered upon himself.
He hopes to see proceeds from his CD provide seed money to open up an Anna Maria Island Performance Hall. The hall would not only be a live music venue, but would also house a musician’s co-op.
“It’s hard when you’re starting out or new to an area to get your footing in the music business,” said Sales. “I want to give musicians a place to gather and learn from each other.”
He also sees the co-op as a place for venues to vet musicians and to foster education programs for kids aspiring to enter the music industry.
“I’d love to see the music hall with a musical lineup during tourist season and summer camp programs in the off season,” said Sales.
His dream for the performance hall are in the early stages, so fans will have to stay tuned for news on its progress.
Sales maintains a blog, website and social media, and anyone interested in finding show dates or keeping up with his projects can visit online at www.mikesalessings.com.
Mike Sales and the Restless Natives will hit the Island music scene with a preview performance and CD release party from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23, at Gulf Drive Cafe and Tiki Hut, 900 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach — and everyone’s welcome to the event.
Sales promises a “howling good time.”
The fourth annual Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Island Wedding Festival begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, and appears headed toward another success if advance reservations are any indication.
Organizer Deb Wing of the chamber said last week she had received about 200 advance reservations and expected walk-ins this week to boost that figure considerably.
Last year’s event drew 889 registered participants, primarily from the Tampa Bay and Orlando areas. This is the first year the festival has become a two-day affair, and Wing said she expects more people than ever to attend.
The move to a two-day event allows people the time to see how “beautiful the Island really is” for a wedding or honeymoon, she said. After all, we’re known as the beach wedding capital of Florida.”
Wing said she’s noticed that a number of registrants this year are from northern areas, including Ohio, Michigan and Canada.
“I think the word is spreading about our festival,” she said.
“I expect we’ll be very busy this week and this Saturday,” Wing said.
More than 90 wedding vendors spread among 14 Island locations will participate.
Registration and the vendor stroll starts at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, at the chamber office at 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, followed by a tiki hut reception at the Gulf Drive Cafe at 7 p.m.
On Sunday, Feb. 27, the festival really “gets going,” Wing said.
Complimentary limousine service is provided for festivalgoers. Vendors include wedding photographers, cake specialists, florists, musicians, wedding planners, restaurants, caterers, accommodations, hair and makeup specialists, disc jockeys and transportation providers.
“What’s unique to our festival is that the bride and groom and the wedding party can meet and see first-hand the wedding sites and businesses available. They can smell the flowers, taste the cake, check out the view from the honeymoon suite and see actual venues for a wedding or reception, not just endless photos of what it may look like,” Wing said.
If a participant checks in to 10 of the 14 sites, they can enter drawings that will produce more than $10,000 in prizes, including certificates for a three-day resort stay, jewelry, dinner, retail gifts, spa services, wedding portraits, music and water sports and sailing, she said.
The final event is a reception at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria, where prize winners will be announced.
Last year’s top prize-winner won a three-night stay at the Tortuga Resort in Bradenton Beach and held her wedding at the resort.
Tourism industry officials estimated more than 500 weddings were performed on Anna Maria Island in 2010.
A Bradenton Beach woman was arrested Feb. 14 for allegedly exposing her breasts at Bayshore High School in Bradenton.
Laura Campanello, 43, faces a second-degree misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, according to a report from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. If prosecuted and convicted, she could be sentenced to as much as 60 days in jail.
Campanello was arrested at about 11:20 p.m. Feb. 14 and later that day was released from the Manatee County jail after meeting a $220 bond. Her first court appearance is scheduled for March 17.
A report on the incident states that a deputy went to the school office to deal with a disturbance — a woman, Campanello, was yelling that another adult visiting the school “was showing too much breast.”
The deputy asked several adults to step inside a registrar’s office, but Campanello refused, according to the report.
“I said, you either step in the office or leave campus,” the deputy wrote.
So Campanello and two other women stepped inside, where Campanello reportedly complained again about the cleavage displayed by one of the other women.
The deputy told Campanello there was nothing that could be done about an adult woman showing cleavage.
“The defendant kept saying look at her. I said, ma’am, I cannot tell her what to wear as long is she is not exposing herself.”
“The defendant said, oh, then I can … just do this,” the deputy wrote, alleging that Campanello then pulled her blouse down to expose her breasts.
“At this point I advised her that she was under arrest,” the deputy wrote.
Mike Quinn of NewsManatee.com contributed to this report.
The couples came to the beach Feb. 14 “promising to love and cherish” at the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe-Islander newspaper annual Promise Day event. They enjoyed a commitment ceremony conducted by the Rev. Ron Joseph on the beach where each couple received a rose, followed by music, dancing, prizes, a champagne toast and wedding cake under the cafe canopy. The couples also were photographed by the Island’s famed wedding photographer, Jack Elka, just before sunset. Island Publix and Beach Bistro also donated to the event. Islander Photos: Bonner Joy and Jack Elka
Multiple emergency teams responded Feb. 14 to a distress call from boaters off Egmont Key, north of Anna Maria Island in Tampa Bay.
A man, a woman and a dog were rescued from the disabled fishing boat, according to a spokesperson with the U.S. Coast Guard.
There were no injuries, but the woman told rescuers that she felt dizzy and suffered a headache.
A rescue crew from the Coast Guard in Cortez responded, as did a marine unit from St. Petersburg and a vessel from Eckerd College.