Tag Archives: Featured Image

Wienermobile drivers choose AMI for pit-stop

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Paradise Cafe owner Jackie Estes, left, with granddaughter Jazzy Sparks and Willona Blanche of Toronto and her granddaughter, Charlotte Blanche, came from the bagel shop to get a closer view Dec. 8 of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile at the Anna Maria Island Centre in the 3200 block of East Bay Drive. The kids received weinermobile stickers and a whistle. Islander Photos: Kathy Prucnell
Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale proudly holds a wiener whistle.

Meat the hot-doggers.

Elise “Cheddar Cheese” Johnson and Dominic “Dijon Dom” Ricci are two of 12 people who can drive the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile — with the rare exception of Jay Leno, who took the modified Chevy truck for a spin and a story earlier this year for his TV series on motor vehicles, “Jay Leno’s Garage.”

And it was Johnson and Ricci who chose to beach the larger-than-life hot dog and stay at the Cedar Cove Resort in Holmes Beach between marketing events Dec. 5-10 in Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton, North Port, Fort Myers and Sarasota.

“A lot of people have been stopping by and taking pictures,” Johnson said about her stay on Anna Maria Island.

“It always makes somebody’s day,” she added.

Johnson and her fellow hot-doggers are among an elite few, including Oscar Mayer’s president, who can speak on behalf of the company.

They interviewed, sang the jingle and “cut the mustard” to get the job the first year out of college, Ricci added.

Johnson graduated from the University of Texas-Austin and Ricci from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

They attended a two-week Hot Dog High with the 10 other drivers and then took to the road for a yearlong stint at the wheel of the Wienermobile for the Kraft Heinz-owned company, now headquartered in Chicago.

A 2015 merger closed the Oscar Mayer plant in Madison, Wisconsin, consolidated operations and moved the headquarters to the Aon Building in Chicago’s Loop.

German immigrant Oscar F. Mayer started a meat market with his brother, Gottfried, first in Detroit and then in the 1880s on the north side of Chicago. His nephew Carl G. Mayer created the first Weinermobile in 1936.

About every 10-15 years, Ricci said, the company changes the vehicle design.

Ricci and Johnson see a bright future in marketing with the parent company, as teachers or wherever they want to use their people skills after finishing their tour of 15 Southeast states in June 2018.

They have oodles of transferable skills, they say.

“We’re basically running a PR firm, the 12 of us and the CEO,” Johnson said, with six months and 25,000 miles under her belt.

She also praised their Anna Maria Island hangout Dec. 8 while visiting The Islander office and greeting folks interested in the Wienermobile.

“It’s so peaceful. I think it’s the best-kept secret,” Johnson said about the island.

“I’ll be taking my family back here,” she added.

And, as Ricci and Johnson would say, the puns are many, so we’ll ketchup then. With relish.

In the meantime, put a little mustard on that dog.


“Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener. That is what I’d truly like to be. Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, everyone would be in love with me.”

It’s a jingle everyone a certain age will not forget.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale is that certain age.

Hearing the Wienermobile was on the island Dec. 5, Speciale smiled a wide grin and broke out in the song.

The police chief shared memories of grocery shopping with his mother as a boy when he coveted the wiener whistles in the packages of Oscar Mayer wieners. Excited as he reminisced, he recalled how he slid the whistles out of the packs — and collected so many his pockets bulged.

The next day he couldn’t be happier on receiving a new whistle.

He tore it open and began tooting.

“Oh, I’m glad I’m not an Oscar Mayer wiener. That is what I’d never want to be. Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, there would soon be nothing left of me!”

And the winner is …

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• Following nesting and placement of a satellite tracking device atop her carapace June 20, Eliza Ann, a 300-pound-plus loggerhead, crawls back to the Gulf of Mexico. The device, placed by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and the Sea Turtle Conservancy, tracked Eliza Ann’s travels for the Tour de Turtles — a marathon for sea turtles. See page 26 for more. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Giddy up!

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The world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales eight-horse hitch and beer wagon circles the roundabout Oct. 14 on its way to Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach. The horses traveled from St. Louis for the appearance on Bridge Street in celebration of Gold Coast Eagle Distributing of Sarasota winning the Anheuser-Busch “Red Jacket Award.” Gold Eagle delivered cases of beer to its restaurant-bar distributors and the crowd was “wowed” by the appearance of Budweiser’s iconic team, complete with its dalmation mascot. For more photos, see page 10. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

The world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales eight-horse hitch and beer wagon circles the roundabout Oct. 14 on its way to Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach. The horses traveled from St. Louis for the appearance on Bridge Street in celebration of Gold Coast Eagle Distributing of Sarasota winning the Anheuser-Busch “Red Jacket Award.” Gold Eagle delivered cases of beer to its restaurant-bar distributors and the crowd was “wowed” by the appearance of Budweiser’s iconic team, complete with its dalmation mascot. For more photos, see page 10. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

Lifeguards save the day

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Beachgoers and rescue personnel look to the Gulf of Mexico Oct. 2 after authorities arrived at Cortez Beach to aid in the rescue of a 10-year-old boy and his mother on a raft. No injuries were reported. According to Manatee County Marine Rescue Lt. Karl Payne, two lifeguards and the sheriff’s marine unit found the mother and son, who had difficulty returning to shore due to a brisk shore breeze. Islander Photo: Courtesy Tjet Martin

Long haul for little loggerhead

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A hatchling discovered Sept. 26 during a nest excavation in Holmes Beach crawls to the Gulf of Mexico, but appeared sluggish to observers. Anna Maria Island Turtle watch section 6 coordinator Annie Camp noticed the hatchling was still attached to its yolk sack and retrieved the tiny loggerhead for rehab. As of Oct. 1, nearly 25,000 hatchlings had made it to the Gulf of Mexico and 19 nests remained to hatch on Anna Maria Island. See more on sea turtles, page 22. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Tracking Eliza

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A computer screenshot shows sea turtle Eliza Ann’s path through July 2. Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and the Sea Turtle Conservancy placed a tracking device on the turtle June 20 after she nested at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach. “It will be interesting to see if Eliza Ann will nest again.” said Suzi Fox, AMITW executive director. The loggerhead could return to the same beach and, “Wouldn’t that be a hoot? she said July 2.

$7.4M AMI pipeline project to affect island traffic into 2019

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The dark blue line follows the general area of the major utility project to replace old pipes on Anna Maria Island. Construction is expected to be underway in two weeks. Islander Courtesy Graphic

Anna Maria Island traffic is expected to tighten along the main artery of Gulf Drive and associated side streets as construction on the $7,427,500 underground waterline replacement project begins in two weeks.

Preliminary work began May 29. Actual construction should begin by mid-June, said project spokesperson Trudy Gerena, of the community outreach department with Manatee County. Community outreach delivers information to the public and media on 70-plus taxpayer-funded programs.

Motorists can expect temporary delays, daytime lane closures, possible flagging operations and detour routes down side streets and over a block, Gerena said.

The primary contractor is Westra Construction of Tampa and Palmetto.

“The contractors are very experienced in doing this type of work,” Gerena said. “The main thing as far as the community is concerned is coordination of lane closures and detours. They will cause as little inconvenience as possible.”

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said he is confident traffic disruption will be minimized. There is no other option, he said.

“It’s something that has to be done,” he said. “The county’s being proactive rather than reactive. It’s a whole lot better getting it done now before a catastrophe happens.”

Shearon said a consultant conducting an AMI traffic study this summer has been notified work on the underground waterline replacement project is underway.

Rerouting traffic will affect island motorists, but most of the disruption will be on side streets, he said.

“It is what it is,” Shearon said. “We have a congestion problem anyway. I just don’t see it’s going to affect anything if they have to stop traffic for a little while.”

The project includes replacing 50-year-old water and sewer pipes and modifying existing lift station pipes, and the connection to existing pipelines, project manager Jennifer Fehrs of the Manatee County Public Works Department, project management division, wrote in a letter to city and county officials.

Fehrs said the project limits on Anna Maria Island extend from State Road 684/Cortez Road West to just north of State Road 64/Manatee Avenue on State Road 789/Gulf Drive.

The project is expected to take two years and will finish sometime in summer 2019.

The Manatee County utilities and public works departments presented a Force Main 5 Rehabilitation project update May 30 at CrossPointe Fellowship in Holmes Beach.

For more information, go to AMIpipereplacement.com or call 941-748-4501.

Aqua By The Bay development proposal draws ire

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More than 100 people gather April 29 to protest at the traffic circle at El Conquistador Parkway and 75th Street in unincorporated Manatee County near the proposed 529-acre development site for Aqua By The Bay. Please, see page 4 for more on Aqua By The Bay. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
The 529-acre parcel fronting Sarasota Bay is being readied for Aqua By The Bay. Islander Photo: Jack Elka
Key players Jane von Hahmann, left, Stu Smith, Judy Johnson and Joe McClash gather at the April 29 protest to rally support in opposition to the proposed Aqua By The Bay development. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
Mark Coarsey marked this aerial photo, where Aqua By The Bay appears on the left and the Legends Bay development on the right, to show where he observed mangrove trimming — the entire stretch of the Legends Bay shoreline. It was unclear from a DEP contact person if the former property owner’s mangrove-trimming permit had transferred to the new owner, Carlos Beruff. Islander Photo: Jack Elka
Mangroves were cut within the past few weeks at Legends Bay, a development on Sarasota Bay next to the proposed Aqua By The Bay. Islander Photo: Mark Coarsey

For about two hours April 29, the traffic-calming roundabout at El Conquistador Parkway and 75th Street in unincorporated Manatee County adjacent to a planned large-scale mixed-use development was anything but calm.

About100 environmentalists, commercial fishers and neighbors — protesting in advance of a May 4 Manatee County Commission meeting — chanted “No Way, Aqua Bay,” waved to cars, which honked in support, and spoke to onlookers about the issues.

The meeting is set for the proposed Aqua By The Bay general development plan and rezone.

In addition to an upland large-scale commercial and residential development on the 529-acre site, developers Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman propose to operate 260 acres of submerged lands as a mitigation bank.

Rally organizers Stuart Smith and Andy Mele of Suncoast Waterkeeper Inc. and the local Sierra Club, and former Manatee County Commissioners Joe McClash and Jane von Hahmann hoped to create a groundswell of opposition and increase attendance at the May 4 meeting.

Other groups and neighborhoods represented included Cortez-based Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage and Fishing for Freedom, Tidy Island, Legends Bay, Harbor Sound, Coral Shores and the Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation of Aboriginal Peoples.

Mele summarized some of the issues in a position paper widely distributed before the rally.

“Beruff and his agents show one proposal to the DEP to get the bogus mitigation bank approved, with no mention of the dredged lagoon or upland development, another proposal to Swiftmud for wetlands dredge-and-fill permits, and a third proposal to the county.”

The proposed 2.5-mile lagoon and seawalls to run the length of the development are part of the developers’ applications to the county and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. However, the proposals are not in front of the DEP.

The plan submitted to Swiftmud fails to consider the upland development.

The county will not consider the mitigation bank.

Von Hahmann and McClash compared the developers’ 2013 proposal — which included plans to dredge a canal for an upland marina and hotel complex — to Beruff’s latest iteration.

In 2013, when the developers sought to amend the county’s comp plan, Beruff sued the county, challenging the constitutionality of the county’s coastal rules, and lost. The case was decided in 2016.

McClash called it a “dishonest approach” and von Hahmann said it a “very piecemeal.” Both believe it’s part of his plan to develop an upland marina.

Mele concludes: “In the middle of this shell game is one inalienable fact: Our communities do not want this crooked developer or this level of development on this shoreline and demand that critically important mangrove habitat be left untouched.”


‘Time certain’ set for Aqua discussion at county meeting

The Manatee County Board of Commissioners has set a time certain — 1:30 p.m. Thursday, May 4, at the Manatee County Commission chambers, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton — to consider a development on the Sarasota Bay, Aqua By The Bay.

Developer Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman-controlled companies, Long Bar Pointe and Cargor Partners VIII, propose a large-scale, mixed-use subdivision between the bay and El Conquistador Parkway in Bradenton.

The proposed development is a few miles south and east of Cortez and Anna Maria Island, across from Longboat Key.

Proposed are 2,894 homes and 78,000 square feet of commercial space, a 2.5-mile lagoon and seawalls running the length of the site as well as high-rise buildings on the shoreline.

The number of high-rise buildings depends on which Beruff-Lieberman plan they consider.

A county staff report counted two high rises — a 13-story and a five-story building, at 145 feet and 75 feet in height.

The plan submitted to the Southwest Florida Water Management District April 12 depicts 24 shoreline buildings, each 150-feet tall.

The developers are asking the county to rezone 191 acres.

A 260-acre mitigation bank for the submerged lands is pending state and federal permits.

People interested in speaking at the BOC meeting may sign up before the May 4 hearing with Bobbi Roy, Manatee County planning coordinator. Her email is bobbi.roy@mymanatee.org.


Mangrove fringe cut at Legends Bay development

Is a dead mangrove fringe the future for Aqua By The Bay?

Mark Coarsey, a Cortez commercial fisherman whose livelihood depends on the bounty of fish in Sarasota Bay, recently reported mangrove trimming on the shore of Legends Bay, a subdivision on Sarasota Bay.

It is adjacent to the proposed Aqua By The Bay project.

“It’s only going to get worse,” he said, noting development trends and having seen hacked mangroves April 14.

Sarabay Associates LLLP holds a 2006 DEP mangrove trimming permit for Legends Bay.

The subdivision is mostly owned by a Carlos Beruff-controlled entity, Legend Bay Real Estate LLC, which purchased 80 lots in December 2016. Beruff also is a principal in the Aqua development.

Coarsey said he sees “one developer after another” cut mangroves, adding he reported similar mangrove slashing near Tidy Island in the past year.

“Pretty soon we won’t have a tree left,” he added.

Angela Collins, Sea Grant scientist with the University of Florida extension office in Palmetto, helped Coarsey report the occurrence April 24 to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

She agreed with the fisher and called the cutting “really bad.”

Mangrove trees start dying and birds abandon the mangroves when they’re cut, Coarsey said.

A site visit was arranged April 26 by DEP environmental specialist Andrea Grainger.

“We confirmed the activities at the site were in accordance with the permit conditions,” DEP public information officer Dee Ann Miller wrote in an Apri1 28 email.

“While most of the work at the site involved removal of Brazilian pepper, any observed mangrove trimming was found to be in compliance with the general permit,” she added.

Kathy Prucnell

Fighting nature

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Manatee County workers, changing a light early in March at the county- maintained city tennis courts at 6200 Flotilla Drive in Holmes Beach, use a pole to defend against a pair of ospreys, which were protecting the nest atop the light pole. See story, page 3. Islander Photos: Courtesy John Tris