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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Boat parade, fireworks Sunday: day late but fantastic

Saturday's fireworks boat parade on Anna Maria Sound and Tampa Bay faced high winds and a small craft advisory, prompting a posponement to Sunday.

Canceled last year by organizers, ironically due to an early weather forecast which proved to be perfect on the intended night, the event was organized this year by The Islander with several "rain date" options.

With help from U.S. Coast Guard Station Cortez Chief Jonathan Brown, and Coast Guard Auxilliary Capt. Raymond Paysour, the parade was canceled Saturday afternoon due to wind speeds of up to 24-mph at the city pier and an unrelenting forecast. However, Chief Brown said it looked good for Sunday, and the parade was officially postponed.

Sunday proved to be a better night, weather wise, and the boats that could still participate on the second night - only eight of the 15 registered boats converged from Bimini Bay and Bradenton Beach to promenade to the delight of thousands of spectators past the Anna Maria bayfront, city pier and the Rod & Reel Pier.

The fireworks that followed dazzled the crowds, as the boaters held off the north side of the city pier and Jim Taylor, Taylor-Made Pyrotechnical Entertainment, set off round after round after round of spectacular sky-filling explosions of color. The grand finale was no less than the best - hugh arrays of color and light filled the sky - Taylor has ever produced for Island events.

Children squealed, the crowd at the pier and along the shore screamed and applauded, car and boat horns blared, and the spectacular event was ended with a very big boom.

Cash prizes for the boat parade, provided by The Islander, were awarded to Evolution III and owners Jerry and Connie McKee of Anna Maria. They will receive $100 for their highly decorated boat in the power-boat division. Their boat displayed thousands of icicle lights in three tiers, a blue-lighted dolphin leaping from the bow, and a Christmas tree of multi-colored lights, complete with mega-sized wrapped packages at the stern and a dancing (live) Santa Claus and elves.

Sam Planck was the lone sailboat to make the Sunday night parade, with red lights running bow to stern from the deck to the tip of the mast on his 35-foot Southern Comfort. Planck said he spent Sunday getting his fouled gas tank cleared, and finished just moments before the parade start at 6 p.m. He also will receive $100 for his effort.

Engraved first-place trophies, donated by Island Starter & Alternator and Complete Auto Repair, will also be awarded to the power and sail boat winners.

This year's parade was the first to include a route from Cortez to converge with the usual Bimini Bay bay parade. The lone entry to make the southern course was Capt. Kim and Mark Ibasfalen and they will receive a "best effort" prize of $50 from The Islander.

Other participants who braved 8-10 mph winds and the "chop" in Tampa Bay Sunday night were George Glaser and his touring pontoon boat Mystic Dolphin, Robb Smith of First Mate Yacht Maintenance aboard his Baby Grand, Win and Patti Bishop with their boat Wee One, and Capt. Jeff Braaten aboard Dream Maker with multi-colored outriggers and holiday music.

The Islander newspaper thanks everyone who contributed to this year's event, including cash donations for the fireworks of $1,000 from the cities of Anna Maria and Holmes Beach, $2,000 from the Rod & Reel Pier and City Pier Restaurant, $500 from Sandy Rich Real Coffee and Real Estate, and $100 from Mama Los.

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