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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Sandscript

Holiday cheer comes early to Island; holiday gift for the years

The joy of the holiday season kicked into high gear last weekend on Anna Maria Island and, from all appearances, a great time was had by all.

The Island Shopping Center annual open house drew throngs of folks to listen to great music, munch on great food, and enjoy a great evening under the stars. There were lots of people shopping - and hopefully buying - in the stores, and the kids, as always, got a kick out of the "snow" machine in front of Ooh La La! Bistro. I heard more than one parent comment that "there's no need for you to take a bath tonight" to the little tikes as they came away covered with soapy foam from the white flurries.

The Privateers Christmas Parade drew a bigger crowd than ever on Saturday, both in participants and spectators, as the floats wound their way from Anna Maria City to Coquina Beach, where Santa met with more than 400 kids to assess their naught-nice status before Christmas Day.

Bridge Street merchants also opened their doors to all that day, with special favors and lots of fun.

Saturday night was the lighted boat parade and fireworks off the Anna Maria City Pier. Although the weather was cool and the breeze a bit stiff at times, the parade went off without a hitch and the Jim Taylor's fireworks, as always, drew the oohs and ahhs of the crowd lining Tampa Bay or on the piers.

It was one of those weekends that makes you happy to be an Islander.

Holiday gift to last for generations
Here's one of those holiday gifts that can just keep on giving for generations to come.

Shelley and Scott Phayre are offering what they call a "video biography" for people to tell their stories for their children, grandchildren and others. It's an autobiography without the writing, recorded on VHS or DVD.

"I think everybody has a story worth telling," Shelley said, "so we have made it our job to film a person telling the stories of their life."

The Phayres will offer a list of questions as a starting point, and visit with the clients in their homes to talk about what it important before the cameras start to roll there. Then the low-key conversation is recorded, edited and a copy or copies provided to the customer.

Scott said it's important that the client not write out answers to the questions, but just think about the questions so the interview will be free-flowing and exciting. "We did a video biography of a former ad sales executive that had all of us laughing so hard our sides hurt," he said. "That type of thing can't be rehearsed."

Cost is in the $400 range.

One of my greatest regrets is not having taken notes of the stories some of the Island's "characters" told me as a Little Roat, stories that have been blurred during the passage of time. The same lack of detail was echoed by my parents about their parents and grandparents.

Here's a chance to rectify the problem of "if I'd only paid better attention" and have a record of those great stories and tall tales. Call the Phayres for more information at 925-9940.

Tiger tales from Tasmania
Perhaps it comes from too many Saturday morning cartoons as a kid, but I've always been fascinated by the Tasmanian devil.

Now, the Tasmanian tiger is making news.

Not really a feline but a marsupial - think kangaroos - the Tasmania tiger, or thylacine, has been officially extinct since 1986. There are still believers that the critter exists among the Islanders off the southeast coast of Australia, though. If so, it would be the largest of the carnivorous marsupials in the world.

The tiger has yellowish to gray fur with dark stripes, grows to about 80 pounds and has a head like a wolf. Females also have pouches where the young hang out until they get big enough to forage on their own.

The critters eat other marsupials, rodents and the occasional sheep. Or did, until the last known specimen died in a zoo in the 1930s.

But the Tasmanian tiger may be making a comeback, thanks to the wonders of medical science and the art of cloning.

Scientists at the Australia Museum in Sydney, Australia, have been able to snag a little bit of tiger DNA from a pup that had been stuffed in a jar of alcohol. They hope to eventually clone a tiger and, eventually, recolonize the island. It's slow work, though, and success is probably years away.

Meanwhile, Tasmanian devils have made a significant comeback from their trail toward extinction and are now found throughout the land there. They really do sound like the buzz-saw scream that the cartoon portrays, grow to about 25 pounds, and mostly eat carrion.

Devils, by the way, were once found throughout Australia but eventually disappeared, perhaps prey to the feisty dingo dogs in the outback.

Sandscript factoid
A Florida Panhandle sheriff's deputy offered the quote of the week with his comment on an arrest of a Bay County couple: "They're America's dumbest criminals."

Seems that the pair, age 18 and 17, called deputies after they found someone had broken into their apartment and stolen a quarter-pound of marijuana. They reported the theft and said they needed it back because they planned to sell it, according to the cops.

Deputies arrived, took the report, accepted the couple's permission to search the place, found drug residue and paraphernalia, and arrested them on charges of possession with intent to sell - i.e., their signed police report - and hauled them off to jail.

It's like that case on the Island a few years ago when the cops went to a party on a noise complaint and the owner of the house invited the cops inside to check out how well his marijuana was growing in the bedroom. He was really proud of the crop until they put the cuffs on him .

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