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Date of Issue: October 23, 2008

Bayfest celebrates Island spirit

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Sissy Quinn, executive administrator of the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, offers T-shirts for sale at Bayfest.

Thousands of festivalgoers turned out Oct. 18 to Bayfest for servings of Island food and politics, art and crafts, music and machines.

Pine Avenue in Anna Maria was like a parade route during the annual Bayfest, presented by the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and organized by a crew of volunteers.

Organizers estimated about 8,000 people attended the 12-hour event.

Throughout the day, junior firefighters ran up Pine Avenue in plastic red fire hats handed out to youngsters by West Manatee Fire Rescue District.

An UnderDog rescued apricot poodle pitter-pattered along Pine Avenue on a pink leash and to adoring coos from passersby.

Motorcycle enthusiasts and muscle car-a-holics polished and shined their machines parked along Anna Maria’s main east-west road.

 Shoppers strolled from booth to booth, looking at watercolors, oils, photographs, sculptures and metalworks in the art exhibits, including displays by the Anna Maria Island Art League and the Artists Guild of Anna Maria Island.

Wendy Hernandez stopped at a booth showcasing artist Robert Johnson’s paintings. “I can’t afford to go to galleries, but I find a lot of gallery-quality material at festivals,” she said as she fished in her purse for a credit card.

Animal-lovers stopped for extended periods at the UnderDog Rescue tent, under the spell of a Chihuahua named Prince.

“We have 73 dogs right now,” said Mike Middleton of UnderDog. He said the organization has 10 families in Manatee and Sarasota counties who care for the animals until they ca  be adopted. “Prince here, he’s a prince.”

Outside Roser Memorial Community Church, children sat under a tent decorating cookies and getting their cheeks painted.

“I wanted a bat, because it’s going to be Halloween, and I think this will be part of my costume,” said Trisha King, 9, of Bradenton, as she studied her recently painted right cheek in a mirror. “I probably will keep it until Halloween.”

Under the shade of trees in the churchyard, children danced and chased bubbles.

“Well, I like Bayfest because it’s fun,” said Toby Henderson, 5, of Holmes Beach.

For children, Bayfest also offered opportunities to bounce, run, race and slide.

“The idea is to bring the kids in the morning, get them tired out and to bed early and then come back for the music,” said Shannon O’Malley, a vacationer from Grand Rapids, Mich.

While children played, volunteers with Manatee County Republican and Democratic organizations campaigned, distributing lots of stickers and buttons for display during the final weeks before the Nov. 4 election.

“Just because I take a sticker doesn’t mean that’s who I’m supporting,” Candice Crane said as she walked away from the Republican Party booth with a Vern Buchanan for Congress sticker. “I collect things.”

“But,” she added, “I am a registered Republican.”

At the Democratic Party booth, festivalgoers posed for photographs with a life-size cut-out of Barack Obama.

“I guess this is as close as I’ll get to him,” said Amanda Tate. “Anna Maria Island is not a likely stop for the campaign.”

Candidates for Anna Maria City Commission also campaigned at Bayfest with booths and handouts from brochures to fans.

A food court and a music stage at the west end of Pine Avenue drew crowds.

Sarasota Gold opened the day with a blend of contemporary jazz and an occasional rocker.

Hwy 41, Koko Ray and the Soul Providers, Mark Burdett, the Blues Alternators, Kettle of Fish and the Dr. Dave Band also performed.

Nearby, festivalgoers dined on hoagies from the Paradise Cafe, cheeseburgers from Skinny’s Place, grilled oysters from the Sandbar Restaurant, fish tacos from the Waterfront Restaurant, tuna sliders from the Sun House, steak and shrimp kabobs from Melinda’s Cafe, pizza from Moveable Feast, pastries from Matt & Dom’s, chocolate chip-mint ice cream from Dairy Queen, kettle corn from Wilbur’s, chicken wings from the Gulf Drive Cafe and Italian ice from Miller Snack Foods.

A classic car show drew a crowd to the west end of Pine Avenue.

As people reminisced about dad’s old Chevy and a first ride in a convertible, DJ Lance Hubschmitt of Cruzin to the Hop played classic tunes.

“I do 120 car shows a year,” said Hubschmitt, who played a variety of oldies, but mostly 1950s rock ’n’ roll.

“I like ‘Rock Around the Clock,’” he said when asked his personal favorite.

Across Pine Avenue from the DJ booth, Ross Ford put a shine on his green 1967 Mustang. “I’m just about finished with it,” he said of the restoration work. “So it is still a work in progress, but it’s taken three trophies.”

Several blocks away, mechanic Patrick Prophet, outside Island Riders on Pine, put a shine on his custom-made motorcycles.

“We’re letting everybody know that we’re here,” he said, setting a business card on the seat of a canary-yellow chopper. This is a great opportunity.”

The chamber hosts Bayfest to promote Island businesses, as well as provide Islanders a good-time before the rush of the winter season.

The event also brings in money for the chamber’s scholarship fund. Organizers expected to provide details on the fundraising later this week.

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