ArtsHOP melodies delight
Carol Whitmore

World-renowned double bassist
Jerome Butler gets a standing ovation
from the crowd at the Anna Maria Island
Concert Chorus and Orchestra
performance Sunday afternoon.

Hundreds of art lovers in a festive mood descended on the Island this weekend for the fourth annual artsHOP filled with art and cultural activities for every age group.

Art was featured at a variety of galleries around the Island during Friday's gallery walk. The weekend also included a rousing performance of Bach and Beethoven by the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra and a one-man performance at the Island Players Theater.

"We had another successful gallery walk and everybody had a great time," said Joan Voyles, of Cultural Connections, which represents nine arts and cultural groups that present the weekend's activities.

"People were reminded about the variety of art and art creations on the Island and learned about all the new galleriesand shops in our growing arts community."

"I heard one lady say, 'I had no idea there were so many galleries on this Island,'" added Melissa Williams, of the AMI Historical Society. "That said it all for me."

People seemed energized by the cooler weather as they made the rounds of galleries and shops on Friday evening. Groups of visitors, laughed and talked as they made their way from Pine Avenue and down Gulf Drive in Anna Maria, then jumped on the trolley or in their cars and proceeded to art galleries and shops in Holmes Beach.

Helen and Andy Spriet, of London, Ontario, said, "This is the second time we've been to this event, and we always buy a few treasures. It's good; it gets people out."

Joyce and Earl Hunt, of Bradenton and formerly of the Island, said, "This is just a really fun night."

Dolores Harrell, of the Island Players, said the play sold out both nights and said about Friday's performance, "We had an absolutely wonderful crowd. It was an excellent evening.

"I saw so many new faces and talked to people who said they didn't know our theater was a theater. They thought it was a house."

Follow the music

The music, from solo performances to duos to bands, was offered at many stops on the walk and had people dancing "in the street."

"The music just drew you in as you walked by," said Betty Yanger, of the AMI Historical Society.

"The music caught people's attention and they came in and discovered the arts," Voyles pointed out.

"The music had such a positive effect," added Laura McGeary, of the AMI Art League.

McGeary also announced the following winners of the League's juried show, "Island Visions" – Cheryl Jorgensen, best of show; Jay Canterbury, first place; Brad Ayers, second place; Marie Garafano, third place; and Cecy Richardson, honorable mention.

Nancy Colcord, of the Gulf Coast Writers, said the group sold 10 of its newly published book, "as it is written…II," at The Studio at Gulf and Pine and noted, "Mostly we got the word out. it was really positive. A lot of people looked at the book and said they planned to buy it later."

Susanne Arbanas, of AMI Concierge Services, and Leesa Schilling, of AMI Sarong Company, had their grand opening during the event and hosted a huge crowd.

"I was overwhelmed by the amount of enthusiasm and support from the community," Arbanas said.

Marlane Wurzbach, of Island Gallery West, said the gallery had a great night of actual and prospective sales, and noted, "We had another wonderful turnout of almost 400 visitors.

"Hosting the reception is always a treat because the event attracts fine art lovers who are very enthusiastic about the gallery and our art."

Vintage boat show

Saturday dawned bright and sunny and brought people out to the AMI Historical Museum in Anna Maria to view the vintage boat show presented by the AMI Historical Society and the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez.

Bob Pitt, who heads the boat building program at the Cortez museum, said the Sallie Adams is a replica of an 1890s Cortez mullet boat and said it was built in 2006 out of all local materials.
A second boat, the Esperanza, is a restored Cuban refugee boat built out of all salvaged materials. It carried six people from Cuba in the 1990s.

Pitt said the Elizabeth Ring, a 1920's Manatee River sailing/rowing skiff, "was built for three people who cruise the rivers of Florida. It's from an original design built by Bat Fogarty in 1922."
A Sam Cobb boat, circa 1901, given to the Island museum by the Cortez museum, was also on display.

The Anna Maria Island Concert Orchestra and Chorus performance on Sunday was another huge success,

Executive Director Jeanie Pickwick, said, "There were three standing ovations – one for our young solo artist winner, Joy Chatzistamatis; one for our double bassist, Jerone Butler; and one after the Beethoven. After Butler performed, people shouted and whooped and then jumped to their feet.

"The entire weekend was a fantastic success. Everywhere I went, people were so enthusiastic."

Closing out the weekend was the drum circle at the Manatee Public Beach, where people swayed and danced to the rhythms produced by the circle of percussionists as the sun set on another spectacular Island day, concluding the successful weekend.

Familiar faces win in Anna Maria

ANNA MARIA –Three familiar faces will be returning to the dais for the next two years – incumbent Commissioners John Quam and Dale Woodland and former Mayor SueLynn, who won the third commission seat.

Woodland was the high vote getter with 463, followed by Quam with 415 and SueLynn with 359. The fourth candidate Nancy Yetter received 291 votes.

"I very much appreciate that the people showed confidence in me," Woodland said. "I have a lot of confidence in the people of Anna Maria. They're well informed and participate in their government and make my job easier."

Quam said he was "very pleased with the outcome even though the turnout was lower than expected. I want to thank all my supporters. They are very well informed voters and know what's best for the city."

SueLynn said, "I'm very happy to have won, and I now have an opportunity to work toward returning Anna Maria to a largely residential community with a clear intention of supporting the business community that serves the tourists."

Commissioners will hold their organizational meeting and swearing in on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 5:30 p.m. followed by a commission meeting at 6 p.m.

Two incumbents returned in H.B.

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

From left, incumbents Pat Morton and David Zaccagnino and newcomer Jean
Peelen have won seats on the Holmes Beach Commission.

HOLMES BEACH – Pat Morton, Jean Peelen and David Zaccagnino have won three seats on the Holmes Beach Commission, beating incumbent Al Robinson and second-time candidate Andy Sheridan.

The turnout was light, with 984 ballots cast out of 3,247 registered voters, according to Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat.

Zaccagnino led the race with 696 votes, followed by Morton (651), Peelen (575), Sheridan (401) and Robinson (326).

The candidates said they were grateful to those who came out and voted. Sheridan said he will continue to attend commission meetings and remain in involved in city government; he is a member of the city's code enforcement board.

Robinson had no comment.

The three winning candidates and Sheridan said they intend to file complaints against Robinson for mailing out a campaign flyer last week without a disclosure stating who paid for the flyer that is required by state elections law.

Incumbents Morton and Zaccagnino and newcomer Peelen will face a growing outcry by residents against vacation rental properties during their two-year terms.

During their campaigns, all three pledged to work on noise, parking and trash problems caused by tourists and development codes that allow high-density vacation rentals to be built in residential neighborhoods.

During the Island Sun's candidate forum last month, Morton, the administrator of CrossPointe Fellowship Church, said he has warned about rental problems since 2005, voted against high density rentals and would continue to oppose them.

He thinks that tourist taxes paid by tourists to the city could be used to revitalize businesses in the city. He said he does not support a dog beach anywhere in Holmes Beach or the Island, favors leaving Australian pine trees on the Island if they are not creating a hazard, and favors using golf carts to get to shopping and keep cars off streets, but not if they're driven by youth.

Zaccagnino, a financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial, said the city needs another code enforcement officer to keep parking and noise in check at vacation rental properties.

He thinks the county should return some of tourists' taxes produced in Holmes Beach to the city. He does not support a dog beach in Holmes Beach and likes Australian pines on the beaches and city rights of way unless they are rotted, then he advocates planting replacement trees.

Zaccagnino voted for the city's new ordinance requiring a driver's license to drive a golf cart to keep children from driving them. He thinks the city is run well, but that replacements need to be trained to take over for department heads who are due for retirement.

Peelen, a former civil rights lawyer for the federal government, said that vacation rentals are destroying the community, prompting residents to leave the Island, and that parking, trash and noise are symptoms of the problem, which is the rental buildings.

She said that city commissioners should carefully watch what Manatee County does with the tourist taxes generated by the city and provide input. She favors a small dog beach with restricted hours and a clean-up patrol, enjoys Australian pines and has concerns about the safety of golf carts.

She also said that the commission needs to improve communication with residents.

The candidates will be sworn in at a ceremony on Monday, Nov. 21, at 8 a.m. at city hall.

Cortez folk arts festival is Saturday
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

A Disney stamp with characters from "Ratatouille"
is one of several that will be available for purchase
at the Cortez Folk Arts Festival on Saturday.

CORTEZ - Mullet, music and more is on the menu at the Fifth Annual Cortez Folk Arts Festival on Saturday, Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez.

The Cortez Village Historical Society will provide mullet dinners with sweet tea and all the fixin's, and Jose's Real Cuban Food will offer Cuban dishes, with Tyler's Ice Cream sponsoring an ice cream eating contest for children and adults.

Musical entertainment includes the Myakka Blue Grass Band, Brain Smalley, the Burke Brothers of Have Gun Will Travel, Soupy Davis and Friends and the Main Hatch Motleys sea shanty singers.

More than 20 arts and crafts vendors will exhibit their wares. New this year, the Cortez Post Office will have a booth selling Disney Forever stamps, with characters from "Ratatouille," "Cars," "Toy Story" and other Disney favorites, along with holiday stamps in books of 20 for $8.80 each.

Disney artist Al Konetzni will sign autographs and has donated art work to be raffled to benefit the museum. Frames were donated by Picture This, 8615 Cortez Road W.

Visitors can take guided tours of the museum, which features new displays, the FISH Preserve and the new boat shop where traditional Florida wooden boats are built.

Cortez photographer Richard Estabrook also will be on hand to take free family and group photographs in the museum's Secret Garden.

The museum is located at 4415 119th St. W. in Cortez. Parking is available in Cortez village and just east of the village off Cortez Road in the FISH Preserve.

Admission is $2 for adults and free for children 12 and under.

The event is sponsored by First America Bank and co-sponsored by the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH), Manatee Clerk of Circuit Courts Chips Shore and the Cortez Village Historical Society.

For more information, contact Ted Adams at Ted.Adams@ManateeClerk.com or call 941-708-6121.

Rental tax evaders targeted

Property owners who cheat on paying resort taxes are on the Manatee County Tax Collector's radar as never before, a collections team told a group of local tourism operators last week.

The office is investigating and collecting from people who own short-term rentals and don't pay the 5 percent resort tax or who underpay it, said Tanya Ranney of the tax collector's office.

Short-term rentals include hotels, motels, single family homes, trailers and condominiums that are rented for less than six months. Property owners owe the 5 percent resort tax in addition to the 6.5 percent state sales tax on short-term rental income.

The tax funds the $3.9 million budget of the (CVB), which attracts tourists to the county.

The office does field investigations in response to tips, and also checks common rental websites, such as www.VRBO.com, for local addresses advertised as short-term rentals, Ranney told the group at a tourism industry meeting sponsored by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) at the Crosley Estate last Wednesday.

When a tax evader is identified, the team requests rental records for the past three years and begins an investigation that can result in a collections proceeding.

Property owners use a number of ruses to avoid paying the resort tax, including coaching their renters to say they are guests of the owner if anyone makes inquiries, she said.

Some use the excuse that since the renters are from out of state or out of the country, the transaction is not taxable, but that's wrong, since the property is in Manatee County, team member Sue Sinquefield said.

Multiple bedroom rentals used for wedding parties of 15 or 20 people are destroying the Island's communities, Bradenton Beach hotelier David Teitelbaum said, asking how the tax collector's efforts could curtail the rentals.

"We need you as our eyes and ears" to tip the resort tax team, Sinquefield said, adding that copies of advertisements in print or on websites are helpful in pursuing tax evaders.

The team is working with Island city code enforcement officers to identify properties that residents complain about, whose owners may not be paying resort taxes.

They also are working with the Manatee County Property Appraiser to enforce homestead law violations they uncover, Ranney said; rental tax evaders sometimes claim homestead exemptions for rental property that is not their primary residence because the tax rate on the rental is higher than on their actual home.

Countywide, the resort tax team collected $44,917 from tax evaders during the first 10 months of the year, Ranney said.

In August, the last month for which statistics are available, countywide resort tax collections were $419,609, up 33 percent from last August.

August resort tax collections were up for the third month in a row in all three cities on Anna Maria Island. In Anna Maria, collections were up 144 percent from last August, Bradenton Beach was up 32 percent and Holmes Beach was up 21 percent.

Tax Collector Ken Burton Jr. attributes an unspecified part of the increases to better enforcement, since the increases are not explained by summer occupancy rates, which were up about 5 percent.

The hotline for anonymous tips on short-term rental owners who are suspected to be dodging the resort tax is 941-741-4809. Online tips are accepted at www.taxcollector.com.

Audubon Society seeking bird fans
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

A sparrow feeds on sea oats on Anna Maria Island.


The Manatee County Audubon Society is looking for volunteers for its Christmas Bird Counts to spot birds, drive birders to designated locations and write down what they find.

The first of two counts is on Saturday, Dec. 17 (Bradenton Circle), centered in downtown Bradenton extending from the bay to Lakewood Ranch and from Sarasota County to I-275.

The second is on Tuesday, Dec. 27 (Gulf Circle), which includes all of Anna Maria Island, parts of Longboat Key, Perico Island and Cortez.

Please email David Williamson with your name and phone number if you are interested in participating in either or both counts at david@localbirder.com, or call 378-9920.

The Audubon counts began in 1900, when scientist Frank Chapman led a small group on an alternative to a bird hunt. Instead of shooting birds, Chapman proposed that the hunters count, identify and record all the birds they saw.

Three road projects this week

Motorists have three locations where road work might be a problem on and near the Island.

Crews will be installing a fire hydrant on State Road 684, Cortez Road, at 115th Street on Wednesday, Nov. 16. There will be intermittent road closures during the project from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Work continues on a sidewalk project on State Road 64 (Manatee Avenue) from Gulf Drive to East Bay Drive from 31st Street to SR 64. Motorists can expect intermittent lane closures and a flag person will be present as needed. Pedestrians might want avoid the area during construction.

Finally, the paving portion of the project on SR 64 from east of Perico Harbor Marina to east of Bristol Bay Drive has ended. Workers will be performing miscellaneous activities within the project corridor. Motorists should drive with caution through the work zone. They don't anticipate lane closures.

Jake the Snake knows rock and roll

Jake Castro holds a copy of his first CD
as he stands in front of his guitars and keyboard.

He's got an infectious smile complete with dimples, he can play guitar like a rock star with an ever-growing list of hits from the birth of rock and roll, he looks like Buddy Holly when he wears his black glasses on stage and he's only 10 years old.

Jacob Castro, who recently released his first CD, has become a favorite of local singers, who don't mind sharing the stage with a youngster who can keep up with them. After releasing the CD, his agent decided to re-mix it, and it will be available again soon and The Sun will report when and where.

Boredom is what drove Jake to learn music a few years ago.

"I was taking karate and started to get bored so my parents wondered if I could learn music," he said. "I took my first lesson and learned three chords the first day. I learned a few more chords the next lesson and played "Johnnie B Goode."

He still sings that Chuck Berry hit wherever he plays and he even emulates the rock legend's duck walk across the stage. It usually draws a standing ovation.

"He came up with the duck walk himself," said his father, Ritchie. "At first, we were afraid he would hurt himself, but he knows what he's doing."

While he got his start with oldies rock and roll, his interest is much wider than that.

He mentions blues, Latin music, jazz and more when asked what he likes. He can play songs by the Eagles, Alabama and Jimi Hendrix including "Foxy Lady." He can also play that standard Led Zeppelin hit from the early 1970s, "Stairway to Heaven."

"Jake can do those things and people close their eyes and remember when," said Cyndee Boelkins, Jake's agent, "He's playing an older generation's music to a younger generation."

Oh, did we fail to mention he plays also Elvis and recently mastered Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody?"

Boelkins, who represents the group Alabama, said when she heard and saw Jake, she broke one of her rules.

"I don't usually associate with kids in music, but while I was up north with Alabama, Del Couch (a member of the Billy Rice Band and a founder of Shaman, another local band) said, 'Bring (Alabama member) Jeff (Cook) down here, we've got a kid here I want him to see,'" she said.

Boelkins says Jake reminds her of another musician,

"What I see in Jake is what I saw in Jeff," she said. "Jake loves what he's doing, and that's why I take the time to work with him."

Incidentally, Jake will be playing with Jeff Cook at the Manatee County Fair on Jan. 13.

Jake recently took on a new persona when he played with the Alabama Blues Band. When Boelkins told the band about Jake, they suggested she bring him to Ocala, where they were playing. Jake got an appropriate black suit to wear, played with them and afterward band members said they would not play in Florida again without him.

"They now call themselves The Alabama Blues Brothers Band featuring special guest star Jake the Snake Castro," she said.

Actually, the Billy Rice Band added "The Snake" to his name. It has featured him during several of its gigs locally.

So far, Jake has done a great job of mixing music with his education. He's a fifth-grader at Anna Maria Elementary School and he gets straight As. He helps with the morning show, a closed-circuit program at the school every day, but his education doesn't stop at the school. Couch, who started the Del Couch Music Education Foundation, will be Jake's mentor, according to Boelkins who said she would also be instructing him on the music business.

"I've been with these guys for 30 years and I've never seen them work with a child," she said.

"I'd like to thank Mr. Couch for everything he does because he's always helping somebody," Jake added.

When asked if he gets stage fright, Jake immediately says no.

"He's an energy feeder," said his mother, Lisa. "Playing in front of a crowd energizes him."

If he keeps going like he has, that could amount to, in the words of Jerry Lee Lewis, "A whole lot of shakin' goin' on.

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