An island friend has been telling me for several years that she is about to buy a new car. Meanwhile, she is driving the old sedan passed down from her father. She tried to sell it at a yard sale several years ago, but, since it did not sell, she has gotten several more years of good use from it, as she has tried to make up her mind about what new car to buy. Why can’t she decide what make and model to buy?
The thing is, the old sedan has a lot of things going for it. Many new car models do not stack up to it as well as one might think … especially in light of the special circumstances that exist on an island. For one thing, salt and high humidity are tough on an automobile. There is something nice about having a car that is so old that there is no concern about watching it deteriorate. It’s not a big investment or a status symbol.
On an island such as Anna Maria Island, many people live without having to travel far. Although it is a popular destination with tourists, the island has not given up all the resident-oriented businesses that make it possible to get just about anything one needs without crossing the bridge to the ‘city’. The streets are two-lane and the speed limits are low. It doesn’t make much difference what one drives around here, unless one wants to participate in a parade. Other than that, any old sedan will do.
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.