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‘Santa’ on being Santa

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Roque “Santa” Pastorius, holds the gaze of a tot during the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce tree lighting celebration and Holmes Beach open house in 2016. Islander Photo: Sandy Ambrogi
Stan “Santa” Weyman with his niece, Megan Moody, in the late 1990s. Weyman said it was the only year he grew a beard for his holiday role of helping Santa Claus. Islander Courtesy Photo

You only have to believe.

For almost a quarter century, Santa has driven the sleigh, passed out reindeer trail mix and listened to more than one wish for a pony for Christmas.

Anna Maria Island Privateer Stan “The Man” Weyman has filled the role of Santa for the annual AMIP Christmas Parade for the past 23-24 years. In his role as Santa, he can be a bit forgetful about the years. He’s too busy heading up his elves, making toys and deliveries to be exact.

“Being there with the kids, that’s the whole point of the thing,” Weyman told The Islander Dec. 6. “I want to do what I can to make sure they grow up right, stay in school and go to college. That’s why the Privateers do what they do.”

Weyman, now 84, rode Santa’s sleigh once again in the Privateers’ Christmas parade Dec. 8, the longest in the country at a little over 7 miles from its start at Bayfront Park in Anna Maria to the end at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.

“The kids are funny,” Weyman said. “Some have the most amazing looks on their faces and others are screaming and crying and trying to get away. I think it’s the beard and the red color that scares them but, I don’t know.”

When asked about his favorite request, he remembered a 4-year-old kid who asked for a “real gun.”

“I told him he had to be 18 with permission from his father before I delivered any guns,” Weyman said. “He looked at me with pure awe, like, maybe when he was 18, I would bring it.”

Weyman developed a standard answer for those who asked for ponies.

“Only if you have 40 acres. You have to have 40 acres for a pony,” he would tell the kids. “That usually took care of that problem.”

Weyman now reserves his Santa duties for the AMIP parade, enlisting others to fill in as Santa at other local events.

Roque “Rock” Pastorius, owner of the Island Beach Monkeys, operator of the Monkey Bus, has played Santa at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Christmas tree lighting celebration in Holmes Beach for the past two years.

He also plays Santa on Christmas mornings at the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe at the Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Manatee Ave., Holmes Beach. The restaurant serves Christmas breakfast and he has one last chance to visit with kids before returning to the North Pole. Off-island engagements also find Pastorius portraying the jolly old elf.

“It’s amazingly rewarding,” he told The Islander. ‘There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the kids’ eyes light up when they meet a real Santa. It’s what it’s all about.”

The Privateers’ parade thrills viewers from Anna Maria to Holmes Beach to Bradenton Beach

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The Skullywag leads the Christmas armada west on Pine Avenue Dec. 8 for the 7-mile ride to Coquina Beach. Islander Photo: Karen Riley-Love
The AMI Paddlers — a dragon boat team — parade with panache. Islander Photo: Karen Riley-Love
Santa and Mrs. Claus bring up the rear of the parade in the Privateer sleigh, thrilling children of all ages. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
Privateers aboard the Skullywag float/boat wave and toss beads to paradegoers. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
Here come the Privateers with beads and cheers — music and cannon fire blaring, thanks to the organization by this year’s parade chair, Susan “Shoo-Shoo” Shoe. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
The conquistador crewe, members of the Hernando de Soto Historical Society, ride aboard their ship in the Privateers’ parade, sharing beads with the crowds of paradegoers on the streets from the north end of Anna Maria Island to the southern tip — where a party for kids was held. Islander Photos: Bonner Joy
Beach Horses, which offers horseback rides in the surf near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and in Bradenton, joined the parade to the delight of many who seldom see large animals on the island.
Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy and wife Barbara show off their holiday spirit in the Privateers’ Christmas Parade. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer and wife Thea share their wealth of beads with paradegoers. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

Privateers roll Santa’s sleigh, pirate ship into Coquina Beach

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From tears … Charlotte Fath, 20-months-old, of Enterprise, Alabama, sits on mom Erica’s lap Dec. 8 while having mixed feelings about meeting Santa and Mrs. Claus for the first time at the Anna Maria Island Privateers Christmas party at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
To cheers … Vita Patton, 8, and brother Levi Patton, 6, both of Bradenton Beach, give their Christmas wish lists Dec. 8 to Santa and Mrs. Claus during the Anna Maria Island Privateers Christmas party at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.
People line up Dec. 8 to greet Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Anna Maria Island Privateers Christmas party at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.
Terry Rapert, Anna Maria Island Privateer quartermaster known to fellow pirates as “Cookie,” offers a gift bag Dec. 8 to Luke McSwain, 3, of Bradenton. The group handed out 76 gift bags with toys to children at its annual Christmas party, following a parade across the island.
Utopia Hooker, 6, of Ellenton and brother Arian, 7, face-off Dec. 8, dueling with toy swords donated by the Anna Maria Island Privateers as part of a gift bag for kids at the organization’s annual Christmas party at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.

Prehistoric Perico discovery fills Bradenton museum’s wish list

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South Florida Museum chief curator Matt Woodside and Jeff Rodgers, provost and chief operating officer, discuss the artifacts at the museum.
South Florida Museum chief curator Matt Woodside examines Dec. 3 an animal bone dating to prehistoric Perico Island. Islander Photos: Kathy Prucnell
Brad Lanning, a SEARCH archaeologist for Minto Communities, uses a map to explain where artifacts were found in the Perico marina, now known as One Particular Harbour.
Matt Woodside, South Florida Museum curator, unloads a truck of boxes from Perico Island after archaeologists preserved, reviewed and catalogued the artifacts.

Evidence of a ceremonial complex on Perico Island more than 2,000 years ago is now in the hands of the South Florida Museum.

“Hands down, it’s the coolest project I’ve ever worked on,” said archaeologist Brad Lanning of SEARCH, the firm hired by Minto Communities-USA to manage the project.

Prompted by the developer’s plans to build a marina and boat storage at Harbour Isle, Lanning and a team of 30 archaeologists uncovered the base of a circular wooden structure and evidence of burial rituals during the final stages of excavation.

In 2016, SEARCH unearthed artifacts from One Particular Harbour Margaritaville, 12300 Manatee Ave. W., that filled about 50 boxes after studying and categorizing the excavated material. In 2017, the company returned to monitor the development work.

Lanning delivered 22 of the boxes — containing pottery sherds, shell tools, plant and animal remains that date from 2,000 to 5,000 years ago — with word about the mortuary complex to the South Florida Museum Dec. 3.

Chief curator Matt Woodside said he was surprised to learn of the ritual ceremonial site and is awaiting SEARCH chief archaeologist Robert J. Austin’s report, now pending review at the Florida Division of Historic Resources.

Data about the strata and conditions of found artifacts is just as important than the artifacts themselves, he added.

SEARCH removed layer upon layer of the marina basin where a roughly 100-foot long, 12-foot-high large shell midden had been constructed by indigenous people, although much of the shell had been removed in the 1920s to build roads.

In doing so, the archaeologists found a very rare preserved circular structure with 6-foot posts and wood-lined pits, where food had likely been stored.

Previewing Austin’s report, Lanning said groups of indigenous Tampa Bay people culturally linked by traded goods came to Perico Island for the ritualistic burials.

According to Lanning, there was communal feasting on large dolphin, shark, manatee and grouper — the dig uncovered vertebrae from a 500-pound fish.

The complex also included a fire pit of 6-8 feet in diameter, Lanning said.

Lanning said 71 “bundled burials” were counted but added the true number of people buried at the site was likely higher due to discovery of portions of other skeletons.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit that allowed the developer to proceed with the marina required Minto turn over to the museum the artifacts unearthed from the archaeological site and the human remains and mortuary objects to the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes.

According to signage on the Neal Preserve on the opposite side of Manatee Avenue on Perico Island, human remains were repatriated with the approval of the tribes, Manatee County and the state’s historic division.

No human remains or objects that were buried with the dead are part of the donation to the South Florida Museum. As an institution that accepts federal funding, the museum is prohibited from dealing in such items under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

According to the museum’s curation agreement, Minto paid $19,000 and delivered field notes with the boxes — down from original 50-plus boxes and $53,000 price tag.

To perform the excavation, Lanning said SEARCH used a well system that drew down 14 feet of water to preserve the wooden artifacts in the water where they were found. He said allowing air to penetrate the structure would have rapidly disintegrated the wood.

Woodside said he expects the museum to receive the wooden parts of the ceremonial complex in about a year.

“This is an exciting day,” said Jeff Rodgers, museum provost and chief operating officer, complimenting the work it took to bring it to the museum.

The provost, curator and archaeologist agreed much can be learned about how people adapt to rising sea levels at the end of ice age, when the sea stabilized and people lived near the water at much lower levels than now and then conditions changed and the water rose.

In Florida, Woodside explained that people were “fairly egalitarian,” without powerful elites or characteristic effigies. And the newly uncovered site shows how they came together for common rituals, including the sacred bundling and burial of their dead.

Past digs on the property included Marshall Newman’s 1930s Smithsonian excavation, which involved removal from a nearby cemetery of more than 200 skeletons that were shipped to the institution.

Also in the early part of the century, Montague Tallant, a Bradenton furniture store owner and amateur artifact hunter, found pottery, tools and European material from early Spanish explorations on Perico Island. Tallant’s discoveries led to the founding of the South Florida Museum.

Under state law, artifacts on private property belong to the landowner. As a result, Woodside said the museum has named the Perico artifacts “the Minto collection.”

Minto Marina LLC owns the submerged lands at the marina, while other Minto LLCs own portions of the residential development, with prior approvals from the city of Bradenton for 686 units on 353 acres.

In May, Minto president Michael Belmont announced the 6-acre marina where the SEARCH dig took place is for sale.

Brian Cale, vice president of development said Dec. 6 the marina, which opened for wet slip and storage leases in November, is still on the market.

A 131-room hotel and restaurant are slated to break ground in early 2019.

Minto purchased the 220-acre Harbour Isle property in 2009, built 411 residential units and plans to construct 275 additional units, according to Cale.

Cale wrote in a Dec. 7 email that SEARCH archaeologists decided against including shell material found in the marina that was “either non-artifact or redundant,” reducing the material and curation price estimates.

Woodside expects the Minto collection will first be part of “visible storage,” after staffers study, photograph and input the items into its database.

The curator plans to review the Austin report when it becomes available and follow up with Minto and SEARCH on the items not yet delivered, saying he wants to know what they are and their whereabouts.

Woodside pointed out the importance of full context in cultural interpretation.

“Just the quantity of things can be important,” Woodside said.

“Did you drink one beer, or did you drink 12 beers?”

“If you drank one beer and went home,” Woodside said, it’s one thing, but “if you drank 12 beers and got drunk,” it’s an entirely different story.

BITS stalled on traffic improvements for Anna Maria Island

The acronym is BITS, but it’s a study to develop solutions for large and small transportation problems on the barrier islands in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

It started in winter 2017.

The mayors of the three cities on Anna Maria Island participated, although now there’s a new mayor in Holmes Beach to fill one seat on the study dais.

The Barrier Island Traffic Study is incomplete and appears to be dormant, with no meetings planned, possibly due to the changeover at the top of the state government. It likely will fall short of a March 2019 completion deadline.

The Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization requested the Florida Department of Transportation District One perform the comprehensive study to recommend potential solutions to vehicle, bicycle, parking and pedestrian circulation issues on the islands, as well as island-to-mainland connections.

“Total investment will be over $935 million over five years for the entire Sarasota-Manatee area,” Dave Hutchinson, MPO executive director, said. “I can’t give you the exact amount for the barrier islands, which includes over 70 projects, because there are parts of the study which are not yet completed, but it is significant.”

The study is focused on the development of strategies to alleviate traffic congestion for people who encounter significant delays when traveling throughout the barrier islands and the mainland connections.

The study recommendations thus far for Anna Maria Island are:

  • Alleviate traffic congestion in the area near the Gulf Drive-Cortez Road intersection by increasing the northbound capacity of the Gulf Drive roundabout at Bridge Street, and to reduce the frequency of the Cortez drawbridge openings during peak hours of tourist season.
  • Implement congestion management strategies, including advanced traffic-signal controls, transportation demand management, congestion pricing, water-taxi services and effective utilization of transit buses are among considerations to further improve travel time and quality on the barrier islands.

Increasing capacity at the Gulf Drive-Bridge Street intersection and congestion management strategies are among the recommendations, including a roundabout at the Gulf Drive-Cortez Road intersection and design improvements to the Bridge Street roundabout.

But not everyone likes the Bradenton Beach roundabout. Longboat Key officials have complained it contributes to traffic congestion.

Longboat Key Mayor George Spoll called for the removal of the Bradenton Beach roundabout at the May meeting of the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials.

Calling the roundabout “intolerable,” he said it’s “an abomination in the eyes of the town of Longboat Key.”

Longboat officials met in October with Sarasota County officials for a discussion on a proposed Gulfstream Boulevard roundabout in Sarasota that apparently evolved into discussion about the existing Bradenton Beach roundabout and the one proposed at the foot of the Cortez Bridge.

Travel on the Longboat Pass Bridge, which connects the north end of Longboat Key to Bradenton Beach, especially during the winter months and at peak drive times, often results in delays, which has made the roundabout an issue for Longboat officials, but there are no changes planned to the roundabout in the near future.

At a past meeting of the Barrier Island Elected Officials, Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie said the city has found the Gulf Drive-Bridge Street roundabout helps keep pedestrians safe and prevents accidents.

With traffic backups on the island, the study is looking at adding roundabouts at other key intersections as a solution to improve island traffic flow. Additional roundabouts are proposed at East Bay Drive-Manatee Avenue, as well as East Bay Drive-Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach.

Roundabouts are increasingly more popular due to the benefits they provide regarding safety and traffic movement. The Federal Highway Administration designated roundabouts as one of nine proven safety countermeasures. Roundabouts provide a number of benefits as follows:

Safety

  • Fewer severe crashes. Fewer crashes, 90 percent fewer fatalities and 75 percent fewer injuries.
  • 10-40 percent fewer pedestrian/bicycle crashes.
  • Roundabouts are safer for beginner and elderly drivers.
  • Can be used in multiple road intersections.
  • Time savings of 30-50 percent.

 

Environmentally friendly

  • Reduces pollution from cars not waiting at traffic signals, noise and fuel consumption.
  • Landscaped with native plants and trees.
  • Roundabouts generally take less land than traditional intersections as they don’t require turn lanes.

 

Saves Money

  • Low or no traffic signal cost and yearly maintenance.
  • Intersection still operates in power outages.
  • Improved sales at nearby businesses as more people walk or easily drive to locations.
  • Acts as a marker to a business district.

The release of the third phase of the DOT’s Barrier Island Traffic Study is expected in March 2019. According to the DOT, projects such as roundabouts typically take 1-3 years to complete.

Opportunities to provide public input will take place in early 2019, before the study wraps up.

Fish kill tops red tide week 22, shoreline cleanup starts anew

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A gull tugs at a dead mullet on the beach along the Palma Sola Causeway Dec. 4. Islander Photos: Sandy Ambrogi

The turkey vultures circled overhead Dec. 3.

It would take another day for the smell of decaying dead fish to reach the Palma Sola Causeway approach to Anna Maria Island.

Mullet had become the latest victims of a red tide bloom. By Dec. 7, thousands of mullet, with red tide as the suspected culprit, swam in circles gasping for oxygen or laid dead in Palma Sola Bay and the waters in the nearby preserves.

Robinson Preserve was particularly hard hit.

Meanwhile, actual red tide levels decreased in Manatee County, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s testing information posted Dec. 5.

The FWC reported slight respiratory irritation in Manatee and Sarasota counties, as well as fish kills.

Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, wrote Dec. 5 in an email to The Islander the county was planning a cleanup within the preserves.

“We are going to provide only measured and limited cleanup of red tide effects with our preserves with our own employees out of concern for the sensitivity of the shoreline environments and our desire to minimize the cumulative impact of decaying fish,” he wrote.

Hunsicker discussed the possibility of a “dead zone” being created if dissolved oxygen drops to very low levels as decay occurs, resulting in even more fish and other aquatic life dying. This concern prompted the cleanup.

Hunsicker also said using government employees would minimize the risk to “well-meaning volunteers who may want to pitch in and help.”

Bradenton city employees jumped into action Dec. 5, raking, piling and disposing of dead fish from the Palma Sola Causeway.

And Bradenton residents Anthony Burls and Gerald Whipper cut their Dec. 5 fishing trip short and pulled their boat out at Kingfish Boat Ramp midmorning with a “here we go again.”

“Nobody’s catching anything,” Burls said. “Nothing much is moving out there. We did see some sheepshead and a snook. So they are OK.”

The fish kills followed an unusually high number of dolphin deaths along the Southwest Florida coastline since Nov. 21 and reports of seabirds dying around Clam Pass in Naples and Residents Beach on Marco Island.

The birds look healthy, then convulse or are unable to fly and die within hours.

Adam DiNuovo is the Audubon Society of Collier County bird stewardship manager. He has been ferrying sick birds from the beaches to the hospital.

More than 100 dead or sick birds have been brought to Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Collier County since mid-November. That doesn’t count the ones that died on the beach or in transit.

Necropsies are still pending, but red tide has not been ruled out as a culprit, according to DiNuovo. Tissue samples are at the University of Georgia and FWC.

“It’s the terns that are getting sick the most. The ones who go out to fish. The shorebirds, not so much. These birds are dying rapidly. They look fine, their body weight is fine,” DiNuovo told The Islander by phone.

“They all seem to regurgitate whatever they were eating before it hits them.”

At Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, the daily beach report Dec. 7 indicated slight respiratory irritation and some dead fish at Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

The surf was calm and the water temperature hovered at 69 degrees as the red tide bloom continued.

BB CRA settles with Technomarine, dock delivery firmed up

The fingers are crossed for good luck.

A settlement has been reached and components of the long-awaited Bradenton Beach floating dock are on their way to the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

At a Dec. 6 special meeting, the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency voted 6-0 to approve a settlement with Technomarine Construction for delivery of the floating dock components.

Member Ed Chiles was absent with excuse.

According to the settlement, Technomarine will deliver all dock materials, including decking, floats and hardware, to the city within 45 days — amounting to a Jan. 20 deadline.

City attorney Ricinda Perry said the city offered the company 30 days for delivery, but Technomarine representative Julianne Frank asked for 45 days out of concern for a holiday slowdown.

Perry added Technomarine chief executive officer Erik Sanderson still needs to procure the floats, but received assurance they would be delivered on time. She said the city still needs to obtain anchor pilings for the dock.

The settlement reads, “The parties agree not to, directly or indirectly, disparage, discredit or comment upon each other” and states a violation would be enforceable by civil action.

Perry received word from Frank the docks were ready for transportation Dec. 4 and she told CRA members Dec. 5 the settlement terms were acceptable, bringing the dock materials — for which the CRA has paid $83,682 of the $119,980 cost — to the city and allowing the CRA to terminate its relationship with Technomarine.

Technomarine was contracted in April 2017 to build and install the dock, but the project has faced numerous delays on Technomarine’s part. They will not be paid any additional money.

The dock parts, excluding the floats and cleats, were manufactured and shipped from Spain to a laydown yard in Gibsonton in August, where they remained as of Dec. 7.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale is tasked with coordinating the delivery.

He told CRA members Nov. 7 that Eric Shaffer, a project manager with Hecker Construction, owner of the storage yard, expressed a willingness to work with the city on the installation.

Since Hecker was subcontracted by Technomarine, the CRA is not required to go out for bids for the dock’s installation.

Sanderson emailed Speciale Nov. 9 that the cleats — a component for the finished dock — are at Technomarine’s North Palm Beach warehouse.

The next CRA meeting will be at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

Red tide persists

Bloom concentrations of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, persist in Southwest Florida but were not observed in Northwest Florida or on the East Coast the week ending Dec. 9.

In Southwest Florida, high concentrations were patchy and occurred in Pinellas, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties.

Medium K. brevis concentrations were detected in and offshore of these counties and in Manatee and Collier counties.

Relative to the week before, K. brevis concentrations generally decreased in Pinellas, Manatee and Charlotte counties, and some areas of Sarasota, Lee and Collier counties.

Cell concentrations increased in other parts of Sarasota, Lee and Collier counties.

Fish kill reports were received for Manatee, Sarasota, Lee and Collier counties.

Respiratory irritation was reported in Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Lee and Collier counties.

For more information, go online to myfwc.com/redtidestatus.

Holmes Beach woman sentenced for DUI

A woman pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 12 months probation in connection with a night in Holmes Beach when she was found slumped over the wheel of a Jaguar.

Eileen Riley, 57, of Holmes Beach, was charged with driving under the influence and refusing to undergo a urine test in November 2017.

A gas station operator reported she’d possibly overdosed in her car while parked at the station, 3015 Gulf Drive, according to a Holmes Beach police report.

Prescription drugs commonly used for opioid dependence and nerve pain were found in Riley’s possession, according to the HBPD report.

Twelfth Circuit Judge Renee Inman adjudged her guilty Nov. 13 and sentenced her to probation, including a DUI program, victim-impact panel and a one-year driver’s license suspension.

The sentence also included 200 hours of public service, random urinalysis and an order that an ignition device be installed in her vehicle for a year.

Court records show Riley was assessed more than $3,500 in fines and court costs.