Anna Maria Island is enriched by the wide range of very different communities that surround it. Perhaps the most colorful and unusual of these is the working fishing village of Cortez, immediately across the bridge from Bradenton Beach, on the southwest side of Bradenton. Cortez is full of extremely picturesque cottages where real life still goes on. In many parts of the country, these kinds of communities have become sterile tourist attractions, and no longer authentic, but Cortez still works hard to maintain its traditions and meaningful activities, and the residents still work in the local fishing industry.
For these reasons, Cortez is always a wonderful place to visit, and to celebrate. But the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival is a time when the festivities are in full swing. This year, the Twenty Ninth Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival takes place on February 19 and 20.
Does Anna Maria have an annual Christmas Boat Parade? Yes and no. There has been a lighted boat parade in previous years and as spectacular as they were there were a few times when the weather forecast didn’t jive with a pleasant evening and liability risk.
One year the planned parade was postponed based on a windy weather forecast and then turned out to be a decent evening, but the rescheduled date was not so benign, much to everyone’s disappointment.
Organizing a unknown number of private boats, providing a police escort, and hoping for good weather conditions becomes a challenging exercise. Anna Maria has not held an official local lighted boat parade for Christmas in several years.
However, the tradition of a lighted boat parade along the Grand Canal and up Bimini Bay to the Anna Maria City Pier is not so easily scuttled.
In many parts of the country, there are traditional ways to bring seasonal cuttings from the yard to the table, for a festive and local décor. There is no reason to be limited to just flowers. Long after the flowers die, there still are colorful and textural cuttings that can create a far more interesting look than flowers purchased at the store. Autumn leaves, for example, make a great centerpiece in colder climates, as do pine boughs and pine cones.
On Anna Maria Island, we have even more options, year round. We were reminded of this at Christmas dinner, by the way our hostess had added great beauty to the table and other parts of the house with greenery, berries and flowers entirely grown in the yard. Many of the plants she used were familiar, but not things most people would think of for house decoration. Most striking were the gold berries of the variegated schefflera, which formed the centerpiece for our table, along with areca palm leaves laid directly on the table cloth for a beautiful tropical look that still said “Christmas.”
Blooming firecracker plant cuttings in a glass vase of water also added an enchanting and delicate red and green focal point in the living room. Tiny Christmas lights strung on a potted palm were just as appealing as they would have been on a more traditional tree.
Anna Maria in September is usually one of the quietest months of the year, in terms of entertainment and special events. At this time of year much of our entertainment comes from watching the flowers grow, and watching the birds watching the fish.
That’s because, in terms of weather, it is likely to be one of the most active months of the year. It is the peak of hurricane season. It’s still very hot and humid and buggy. It’s likely to be very rainy because the sea breezes from Florida’s east coast and west coast tend to collide along our shoreline at this time of year. The result is turbulence: thunder and lightning. Floridians who want to discourage repeat houseguests have learned to invite them in the month of September. Often, the weather will take care of the rest and those guests will not ever come back.
October is the month in which we finally get some relief from the heat. As the temperatures drop, and the threat of storms lessens, the island starts to come outside to celebrate the joys of life here. One of the first celebrations of the season is Bayfest, on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria. Now in its ninth year, Bayfest will be held this 2009 on the weekend of October 16. On Friday night, the kick-off party will feature live music by Bootleg from 7 to 10, with DJ Mike Sales.