The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 2 - October 13, 2010


Don't blink - 10 years of The Sun

Harry Stoltzfus

Ten years. A decade. A tenth of a century.

That’s how much time has passed since my wife, Maggie, and I started The Anna Maria Island Sun.

It hardly seems possible. But there it is. We’ve been at this now for 10 years, and I have to ask myself, “Where did the time go?”

Wait a minute. Wasn’t it just last week that our kids were five and eight years old, wearing “Newsies” outfits and handing out copies of our first edition at Publix?

For that matter, who is this nearly six-foot tall young man claiming to be my son, Connor? And when, exactly, did my daughter, Katie, grow up and realize her dad is not the coolest guy on the planet?

Of course, it seems like only yesterday that we at The Sun were planning our inaugural issue, running around like crazy people just trying to get all our computers and second-hand office furniture in place.

Back in 2000, none of us had any idea what lay in store in the coming years; whether we would be successful in launching a new Island publication or whether we would join a field littered with failed attempts.

A number of newspaper veterans answered my call and showed an interest in working here. It is no overstatement to say they were taking a huge risk. Several left good jobs at daily newspapers to come work for an upstart weekly – a publication that was facing long odds and entrenched competition.

Trusted friends and advisors cautioned us about the perils of opening a new business and especially about starting a newspaper. “You’re crazy,” was what two people told me directly, and it seemed to be the prevailing sentiment even among those with our best interests at heart.

More than 520 editions later, we’re still here.

What a ride it’s been. Successes, failures, triumphs and tribulations, we’ve managed to live through all of it and come out the other side with our business still flourishing.

From trying to produce a newspaper while in the middle of a hurricane power outage, to being told long distance that the printer’s presses blew up on deadline, working at The Sun has been anything but dull.

During all this time and through all the challenges, our newspaper “family” has evolved while still remaining largely intact. In fact, seven of those daring souls who signed on in the beginning are on the staff today. I owe these folks more than I can possibly say for staying the course and being so dedicated to producing a quality community newspaper.

And to our readers, advertisers, our friends and our families who have given us so much support, both emotional and financial, thank you for everything. Without you, there would be no Sun.

So what does our future hold now? With 10 years under our belts, how about another 10 years? I just hope it doesn’t go as fast as the first 10. I guess my mom and dad were right. They said take it all in and enjoy every second because it will fly by before you know it.

Or, as one of my favorite songwriters says, “Don’t blink.”

Too late, Kenny. I already did.

Mike Field, publisher

Cortez Cup Regatta a winner

Harry Stoltzfus
Summertime, with John Lynch from Venice at
the helm, won first place in the True Cruising
class at the Fourth Annual Cortez Cup
Regatta on Saturday.

CORTEZ – The Fourth Annual Cortez Cup Regatta began without a whisper of a breeze on Saturday, as fisherman cast nets for bait on the glassy Gulf of Mexico.

Beachgoers on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key admired the 21 sailboats clustered together all morning in the Gulf two miles west of Longboat Pass, waiting for wind.

By early afternoon, a light sea breeze started the race, with four classes sailing on two courses - spinnaker and non-spinnaker on a six-mile upwind/downwind course and the cruising fleet on a five-mile triangle course.

After the event, the Cortez Yacht Club, which organized the regatta, hosted an awards ceremony at Cortez Cove Marina with live music and an authentic Cortez shrimp boil prepared by Star Fish Co.

In the True Cruising class, John Lynch, from Venice, won first place sailing Summertime, a C&C 36. Bradenton sailor Rich Muro sailing Silver Lady, a Pearson Electra, won first place in Pocket Cruising class.

In Non-Spinnaker class, Doug Dearden, from Sarasota, sailing In Tune, an Impulse 26, took top honors and Bob Armstrong, from Bradenton, won Spinnaker class sailing Mischief, a J92.

Regatta winners will share in hosting the Cortez Cup perpetual trophy.

The Sarasota Bay Yachting Association Boat of the Year event, which honors old Florida and Cortez traditions, drew boats from Largo, Bradenton, Cortez, Sarasota and Venice, along with regatta support boats and the Savannah Belle, a commercial fishing boat provided as a committee boat by A.P. Bell Fish Co. in Cortez.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Corinthian Sailing Fund established in 1996 to help Manatee and Sarasota County Olympic-class sailors compete in qualifying races and championships and to provide graduating Manatee and Sarasota County high-school student sailors with scholarship assistance. The fund is administered by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

The regatta is sponsored by Gulf Auto Clinic of Bradenton with support from Cortez Cove Marina and contributions from Knighton Sails, Southwinds Sailing Magazine, Atlantic Sail Traders, Porpoise Sails, and the Anna Maria Island Sun.

Spill may prompt local claims

HOLMES BEACH – Attorneys from three high-powered law firms came to the city to advise business owners on filing for compensation from BP for economic damages due to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) retained the firms for their members, but invited any interested businesses to attend seminars around presented by the law firms the state.

“We’re going to try to express all the different types of damages and Barr, of the Pensacola firm Levin Papantonio. “Even if the oil didn’t wash up, the tourism numbers dropped because of the perception of a problem.”

Barr said Kenneth Feinberg, appointed by the president to manage the $20 million Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), reversed his previous position and said he would consider claims from areas other than those where oil washed up on the beaches.

“Right now everybody’s hoping that Fienberg does what he says he’ll do and resolve these cases, but you need that trial lawyer in the background to take it to trial if necessary,” Barr pointed out.

Two-track plan

He said the firms are proposing a two-track plan. One is to go through the GCCF, and businesses have until Nov. 23 to file emergency claims using a simple claim form on the GCCF Website. He recommended that all businesses file one, but said owners should not sign any documents indicating they are accepting it as a final award.

The other track is for individual businesses to go through the law firm. Barr said FRLA membership is not required and the firm is fronting all the costs, but it would charge a percentage of any award that is issued.

He said successful claims require documentation such as letters of cancellation, tax returns, mitigation efforts, occupancy/sales information and financial statements and noted, “Claims are tricky, especially with future damages.

“Travelers have a different perspective of coming to Florida. People will have to spend money to recapture that market. That’s the type of thing where it’s good to have legal council.”

He said GCCF is comparing 2010 to 2009, which was one of the worst years in the history of the state, but the law firms would use modeling to help determine losses.

“Modeling will compare the oil spill to other catastrophic events,” he explained. “We can apply the information to here to predict what would have happened in 2010, 2011, 2012 without the oil spill.

“We’ll take all the available information and put all the different variables in for the oil spill. These will give us assumptions on what the impacts were to your specific situation.”

Legal investigator Carol Moore advised owners to contact Levin Papantonio by calling 1-888-581-4758 and explained, “Our intake department will take all your information, our environmental department will send you an individualized packet, and we’ll start a dialogue with you.”

For more information, go to the firm’s Website at

Bayfest beckons with tasty local treats

Happiness was a frosty snow cone at
Bayfest 2009. This year you can feast
on everything from fried pickles and
kettle corn to burgers and stone crab.

ANNA MARIA – When the crowds begin to gather at the empty field at Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard around 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 15, there will be plenty of food.

This year, the 10th Annual Bayfest will feature music and food Friday night, from 5 to 10 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. There will be plenty of liquid in the form of water, soda, beer, wine and rum drinks to wash it down.

The menu includes: 1/4-pound hot dogs, chili, sausage and pepper hoagies and chips from Paradise Bagels Café and Catering; fish tacos from the Waterfront; crab cakes and shrimp Bruschetta from the Sandbar; Philly cheese steaks, soup, chips and cookies from Rudy’s Subs; fish sandwiches, shrimp skewers, conch fritters and crab poppers from Giatano’s Seafood Grill; jerk chicken and jerk chicken wings from Jamrocks; ice cream from Tyler’s; fish and chips and fried pickles from Old Bag of Nails Pub; barbecued ribs and wings from T&L Barbecue; Stromboli and sticky buns from Philly’s Finest; a pulled pork sandwich from Aaron’s BBQ; hot dogs from Corkey’s; beef jerky, flavored ice, popcorn and nuts from Miller Snack Foods; funnel cakes, kettle corn and Italian ice from Steve Schmidt, kettle corn from Walker’s; pizza from The Feast restaurant; burgers from Skinny’s; and stone crab from Moore’s Stone Crab restaurant that might be extra fresh as season starts Friday, Oct. 15.

Some of those food outlets will be open Friday, for those who want to catch dinner and enjoy the music after work. All of them will be open on Saturday.

As for the other vendors, there are more than 100 vendors in all selling arts and crafts with 20 of them open on Friday night.

Non-profit groups will also be under tents distributing information, selling items and taking donations. They include the Anna Maria Island Privateers, Florida Blood Services, the Rotary Club of AMI, Anna Maria’s EEEC, Turtle Watch, the Coast Guard, West Manatee Fire and Rescue, The American Cancer Society Susan G Komen three-day walk, (The Rack Pack) and Relay for Life, The Diamonds You Are, North End Merchants Organization, Emma’s Little Helpers, AMI Power Squadron, the Senior Friendship Centers and also The Motts Soldier Support Group and Save the Gulf.

In addition, there will be music both days featuring local favorites on stage, a large kids area with lots to do (bring $5 per kid).

Organizer Cindy Thompson also confirmed that there will be 23 Port-A-Potties, up 10 from last year, and they will be cleaned out and freshened Saturday morning.

The Anna Maria Historical Society will be taking orders for Carolyne Norwood’s second volume of Island history, “A Tale of Three Cities,” and taking pictures of people in front of the old jailhouse, while people can also paint a coconut with their children and dunk a local politician or personality.

And Thompson said that around 106 classic and antique car owners are registered now for the car show, which includes a disc jockey spinning oldies from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

All you have to do it show up. There is no admission charge and trolleys will be running all day both days up to closing.

If You Go: BAYFEST 2010

When: Oct. 15, 5 to 10 p.m., Oct. 16, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Where: Pine Ave. in Anna Maria from North Shore to N. Bay Blvd.
What: Music, food, arts, crafts, kids' area, classic car show and more.
Admission: Free.

Fire districts won't combine

BRADENTON – According to local fire officials, there is no burning desire to consolidate the area’s 11 fire districts.

The topic was on the agenda of the Manatee County Council of Governments (COG) last week. While there was no interest in pursuing it, elected officials did agree to invite fire district representatives to join them at the table on a regular basis.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said that at the January COG meeting, the group directed County Commissioner Joe McClash to discuss the proposal with fire officials and report back to the group.

“There are citizens who are interested in looking at it with the exception of Longboat Key and the city of Bradenton,” McClash explained “The request was for the county to put it on the ballot, but that’s not something we have any say over.”

“If the county has matured to the point that a single fire district makes sense, it could be established by a local bill. Personally, I think it would be in the best interest of the county to have one fire district.”

Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston countered, “Bigger’s not necessarily better. There’s no measurable cost savings. There has to be a reason to do it.”

McClash said one benefit would be for the county building department to have to deal with only one fire district. Poston said he wouldn’t want someone from Lakewood Ranch making decisions for him.

County Commissioner John Chappie suggested the board appoint a commissioner as a liaison to the fire districts to “work with them to find out where our deficiencies are and what we can do to help provide the best service.

“Every time we have a council of governments meeting we should have representatives from the fire districts. We cannot let it go with, ‘We’ll see you next time it comes up.’”

However, County Commissioner Larry Bustle pointed out, “There’s 11 fire districts. The job is impossible for one commissioner. Rather than doing it that way we should invite representatives of the fire districts to come to this meeting.”

The board approved a motion to invite the chief and one commissioner from each fire district to come to the quarterly COG meetings.

County approves trolley money refund

With one dissenting vote, the Manatee County Board of Commissioners has approved returning $40,200 to the Anna Maria Island Chamber for free trolley rides so the Chamber can return the money to the businesses that advertised on the sides of the popular Island vehicles.

County Commissioner Donna Hayes, whose district covers Lakewood Ranch and other developments east of Bradenton that don’t even have bus service, voted against returning the money because she feels the county is showing preferential treatment to the Island, the only location where it offers free mass transit.

“The world does not stop and end on the beach,” Hayes said, while addressing her fellow commissioners before the vote “Other people do business in the county.”

Other commissioners disagreed with her stance and voted for the proposal.

Under a plan drawn up by Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker, the county will replace the money raised by the advertising with extra funds earned by the new franchise agreement at the county beach concessions. The county has already ordered five heavier built trolleys to replace the existing vehicles, which Hunzeker said were not sturdy enough to handle the beach route. The trolleys break down more frequently than buses in the system.

Manatee County Area Transit Director Ralf Heseler said the breakdowns are costing the county extra money – an average of 68.9 cents per mile compared with an average bus expense of 41.5 cents per mile. Money for purchasing the new trolleys, almost $2.3 million, comes from a federal grant.

The trolley route runs longer hours than the bus routes and runs on holidays, when there is no bus service. Heseler said other reasons for the trolley breakdowns include the salt air, which causes rust and corrosion, and sand, which gets into suspensions and brakes.

Heseler pointed out that the frequent breakdowns mean the ads on the sides of the vehicles would be visible only to the repair crews at the transit garage, not to tourists and other visitors to the Island.

When the new trolleys arrive, the Island Chamber will again collect advertising funds from local businesses and turn that money into the county to make up for a recurring grant that ran out to operate the system without having to charge for rides. The new trolleys are expected to be here by August 2011.

Commission rescinds land settlement vote

BRADENTON BEACH – Saying the vote was for the wrong reason, the city commission has rescinded its vote to approve a land settlement with two developers over a project on the beach.

The Oct. 7 decision nullifies an Aug. 31 vote to accept an offer from developers Island, Inc., and Beach Development, Inc., to pay $375,000 for two acres of land on the beach that the city had confirmed was unbuildable, based on its land use map. The acceptance came after a former city building official had told the developers it would be OK to build two condos there.

The August meeting was a particularly confusing one. It had been billed as a session in which the commission would only be voting to move forward with preparing a response to the offer rather than approving it.

At the Oct. 7 meeting, City Attorney Ricinda Perry explained the intent of the August meeting. Part of the confusion concerned whether accepting the settlement was even called for, since the agenda did not list that as an option.

When Mayor Bob Bartelt tried to adjourn the August meeting because of that lapse, Greg Hootman, the attorney who represented the city in negotiations with the developers, objected stating a decision on the settlement was necessary at that time.

Perry told the commissioners at the October meeting that they would need to rescind their approval of the agreement, which they did. She then presented them with their options. She also told them that the settlement amount was supposed to be $350,000, instead of $375,000, due to a scrivener’s error.

“You need to vote to rescind the settlement and then authorize Hootman to work out a settlement or reject the settlement offer,” she said. “You should also make sure the settlement includes all closing costs, fees, documents stamps, etc. in that price.”

Commissioner Gay Brueler said she favors rejecting the settlement.

“We need a lot more stipulations, and there was talk of an extra 10 units for the project that would go to the city in the settlement,” she said. “I want that title to be squeaky clean, nothing could be found wrong with it in 100 years.”

The commission voted to rescind its action and, after some debate, agreed to instruct Hootman to move forward with a settlement at $350,000 while City Clerk and Financial Officer Nora Idso checks on mortgage loan interest rates in case they have to finance the purchase. The developers initially offered to let the city pay off the settlement over time at 6 percent interest, but commissioners rejected that and agreed to have Hootman also debate that interest rate.

Chamber dedicated to Pat Geyer
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/PAT COPELAND From left, Commissioners
John Monetti and Sandy Haas-Martens, Polli Stroup
and Peggi Davenport, Commissioner Pat Morton and
Mayor Rich Bohnenberger after the dedication ceremony.

HOLMES BEACH – Friends, family and city employees gathered in the foyer of city hall last week to dedicate the commission chambers to former mayor and commissioner Pat Geyer.

Geyer and her husband, Ed, moved to the Island in 1961 and bought Duffy’s Tavern in 1971. She was elected to the commission in 1978 and served until being elected mayor in 1990.

She served as mayor for four years and then as a commissioner for all but four of the following 15 years. She passed away in May the age of 79.

“Pat was part of my family since I was 14,” said Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore. “She was a noble lady.”

Whitmore told Geyer’s daughters, Peggi Davenport and Polli Stroup, “Thanks for letting us share your mom with us.”

“Pat made an impression on all of us,” added Mayor Rich Bohnenberger. “She was a good friend and mentor.” Resident Marguerite Carrick said, “The most important thing is that she always did the right thing for Holmes Beach.”

Bohnenberger read a proclamation that dedicated the chambers to her memory and recognized Geyer for her 25 years of service to the city and noted, “Her dedication to serving our community began upon her arrival in the1950s and took on many forms including her becoming the first female volunteer firefighter on the Island.”

It pointed out that she was always involved in activities that supported children such as the Privateer’s events and Snook’s Adams Kids’ Day and was always available to meet with those she served, either at city hall or her city hall annex Duffy’s.

Bohnenberger also showed the group the Anna Maria Fun Map, which was dedicated to Geyer’s memory.

Thoughts about the past 10 years

What is a decade to a lifetime?

Depending on how long you think you’re going to live, 10 years could hopefully, be a rather small fraction of your life, but we’ve had a ball these past 10 years and time flew by.

As a veteran of two previous Island weeklies, I can tell you that it isn’t easy to start and operate a newspaper. You need a good plan, a dedicated staff and the right business philosophy.

As members of the Anna Maria Island business establishment, we are dedicated to treating fellow businesses with the respect they deserve, to make sure our ads and billing are accurate and to make sure the business environment is right so that they, and we, can make a decent living.

In the 10 years since Mike and Maggie Field opened The Sun, we have witnessed the reversal of the real estate market, the growth of the wedding industry, increased interest worldwide in Anna Maria Island as a vacation destination and efforts in all three cities to save money and still retain control over how they grow.

In those 10 years, I learned that hard work is always rewarded if you hit the “save” button on your computer regularly; most people will seek a compromise if you work with them convincingly; and that adding a decade to your life in Florida isn’t all bad because there’s always somebody older than you.

There are so many facets in which a newspaper endears itself to the community.

First you have the news coverage, and our nation’s forefathers were so wise to ensure a free press. Without it, a democracy could easily turn into a tyranny. On the Island, it’s good to have accurate reporting to make sure the elected officials and others toe the line.

There is also the economic aspect. The Sun provides real estate professionals, restaurants, resorts and other commercial entities with a very local outlet to their customers. The age-old story of vacationers who came here, fell in love and bought property on their first or second visit still rings true, and they love to look through the real estate ads. Vacationers also need to eat, get around and purchase souvenirs.

For advertisers, it is the best way to spend their money because most of the people reading their ads are within seven miles of their businesses. They don’t pay extra for their ad to reach people located too far away to come.

But the most fun is providing readers with features about the people and places on this unique barrier island. Parents get to read about their kids at Anna Maria Elementary School and during sporting events at the Anna Maria Island Community Center. Local anglers get a chance to display their catch, and people can share their birthdays, anniversaries, new family members and awards by sending in pictures.

And then there are the events ranging from festivals to fund raisers involving bowling, giving blood, concerts and more. We love to cover those as much as we love to sponsor and publicize them.

For everybody who has supported The Anna Maria Island Sun with your words and advertising dollars, we thank you.

For those who look forward to 10 more years of The Sun – so do we.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper