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Siesta Key Island Chatter

Staff report

Don’t miss Siesta Fiesta

Fine art, food, and live music highlight this lively annual two-day craft festival, Siesta Fiesta in Siesta Key Village, Sat/Sun April 27 and 28. 

Siesta Chamber Secretary Stephanie Brown, general manager of the Siesta Key Oyster Bar, reported that plans have been well underway for musical entertainment once again this year during Siesta Fiesta.

Musical performances will be offered on Saturday, April 27, during the day and evening, but not past 10 p.m., Brown noted. On April 28, the music will end at 5 p.m., which is when the festival usually is winding down, she said.

For more information, visit www.ArtFestival.com or call the Siesta Key Chamber at 941-349-3800.

Siesta Key Chamber hosts annual Children’s Easter Party & Egg Hunt

The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce proudly presents the Annual Children’s Easter Party and Egg Hunt on Saturday, April 20th, from 9:00 a.m. until Noon.  The Chamber welcomes the support of the Siesta Key Kiwanis Club who will assist with coordination and provide volunteer service.  For the third year, the event will be held at – Turtle Beach, located at 8699 Turtle Beach Rd, Siesta Key.  Turtle Beach is approximately 2.3 miles South of Stickney Road on Midnight Pass.  Free parking is available on site.  The free Siesta Breeze Trolley service will begin at 8:30 on that morning and will be making rounds approximately every thirty minutes from SK Village to Turtle Beach.

Activities include an Easter egg hunt, games, free photos with the Easter bunny, the Sheriff’s mounted patrol, and more!  Kona Ice will be offering items available for purchase.

Children ages 1 to 6 are invited to register and participate.  Approximate time slots for the Egg Hunt are designated by age groups:  10:00 a.m. (2 years of age and younger); 10:30 a.m. (3-4 years of age); and 11:00 a.m. (5-6 years of age).  All Easter eggs will contain prizes donated by Siesta Key Chamber Member businesses.  Each child who registers will also receive a goodie bag.  Children should bring something to carry their collected eggs in.

Pre-registration begins March 20th, and is required for the Easter Egg Hunt and limited to 175 children.  There is a $10 fee per child.  Registration forms are available at www.siestakeychamber.com or at the Siesta Key Chamber Office, 5114 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key, FL 34242.  For registration and sponsorship information, contact the Chamber Office at events@siestakeychamber.com or 941-349-3800.

A new business improvement district proposed

Siesta architect Mark Smith, a past Chamber chair and continuing board member, is at work on a big idea for improvements to Old Stickney Point Road.

During the Feb. 20 Chamber members meeting, Smith explained that his proposal is to create a business improvement district with uniform lighting, brick paver sidewalks and street furniture, similar to the features of the Public Improvement District in Siesta Village. Additionally, as in the North Village, banners would hang from the new light poles, he said.

The goal, Smith pointed out, is “to try to unify the look that we have on Siesta Key.”

The south district would encompass part of South Midnight Pass Road, including the county-owned parcel at 6647 S. Midnight Pass Road. The latter is home to one building that is property of the Public Utilities Department, as well as underground pipelines. It formerly held a Sheriff’s Office training facility.

He needs to get 10 property owners to sign a petition, Smith said, before Sarasota County staff will consider establishing the district. He had been working on the proposal through the Island Business Committee, Smith noted.

During a follow-up interview on March 11, Smith reported that work demands had prevented him from making any significant progress on the initiative. Still, he said, “I don’t anticipate a problem.” He added that he feels he will be able to secure the necessary number of signatures.

Breeze app ‘pretty close’ to debut

The work to develop an app for the Siesta Key Breeze trolley came up on March 12, as the County Commission was holding a discussion about whether to proceed with privatization of the Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) bus system.

Rob Lewis, interim director of SCAT, noted — as he had during the Siesta Key Condominium Council meeting in February — that the company operating the open-air trolley “is getting close to releasing a real-time tracking [mechanism] for your phone and mobile devices.”

SNL followed up with Lisa Potts, SCAT’s communications specialist, to find out whether the debut date has been nailed down for release of the app.

“There’s no definite timeline,” she reported on March 15, but “I know they’re getting pretty close.”

She also clarified that the app would be completely separate from the web-based tracking software SCAT makes available to riders of its regular buses. The app for the Breeze will be available for download for Android and Apple systems, Potts pointed out.

The Apple system takes more time to develop than the Android app, she explained. However, she had no details to offer, she said, about the reason for the longer Apple process.

SNL also took the opportunity to check with Potts about the February ridership figure for the Breeze. She said the total was 38,336.

Even before she undertook the necessary research to provide that number, Potts affirmed readily that the trolley remains very popular.

A big anniversary coming up

The Siesta Chamber will mark its 60th anniversary this summer, Ann Frescura, the executive director of the organization, told members attending the Feb. 20 quarterly meeting.

Chamber leaders and staff already are making plans for a big celebration, she said.

And while she has found quite a bit of materials about the first 50 years of the Chamber, she continued, she has no documents about activities from 2009 forward. If anyone has materials they can provide her,

Frescura said, she would welcome that assistance.

Chamber members also are invited to propose suggestions about the celebration, she pointed out.

Siesta Key Chamber hosts 20th Annual Golf Tournament

The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce proudly announces the 20th Annual Chamber Golf Tournament, which will be held Friday, May 31, at TPC Prestancia, located at 4409 Tournament Players Club Drive, Sarasota, 34238. 

This private outing presents a unique opportunity for Chamber members and guests to play a round at the TPC Prestancia – Stadium Course.  Onsite check-in begins at 7:30 a.m. with a 9:00 a.m. shotgun start.

Don’t miss the opportunity to promote your business with select sponsorship opportunities.  Also, take advantage of Early Bird Registration (April 1-30) which includes $100 discount per foursome. 

Registration is also available for single players and award luncheon only guests.  Golf registration includes:  light breakfast, awards luncheon, cart fee, golf balls & tees, team photo, and hole prizes.  Select sponsorship opportunities are also available. 

Registration and sponsorship information is available online at siestakeychamber.com or contact Rachel Dixon, at the Chamber at 941-349-3800.  Proceeds support the programs and services of the Chamber.

Siesta and the Appalachians

A number of the attendees at the Siesta Key Association’s Annual Breakfast Meeting on March 2 indicated by their responses to remarks of the guest speaker that they were unfamiliar with the geological history of Siesta Key.

The speaker was Dr. Philip M. Farrell, emeritus dean and professor of pediatrics & population health sciences at the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He and his grandson, Thomas Philip Farrell, have written a book — The Illustrated History of Siesta Key — that has proven very popular among island residents and visitors alike, as this reporter can attest, based on information from a family member who has spent a bit of time on the island this season.

Dr. Farrell explained on March 2 that the sugar white sand of Siesta originated in the Appalachian Mountains, which once were the height of the Himalayas, about 25,000 feet. Now, he noted, the Appalachians generally stand between 3,000 and 5,000 feet tall.

All that extra material migrated to Florida, he pointed out. “That’s the gift from the Appalachians to Florida.”

On another note, Farrell reported that Point of Rocks “is the only rock formation on Florida’s Gulf Coast in the 30 barrier island system. It probably resulted from a meteor strike.”

The Point of Rocks area, he added, is estimated to be no more than 3,000 years old, while the rest of the Key is about 2,000 years old.

Red tide respiratory protection encouraged

On a very different note during the Siesta Key Association’s annual meeting in March, outgoing president Gene Kusekoski asked guest speaker Dr. Philip Farrell for Farrell’s thoughts about one aspect of red tide.

Farrell is a physician who is a respiratory specialist.

“How big a threat” are the red tide aerosols during an intense period of the algae bloom, Kusekoski inquired.

“It’s quite serious,” Farrell responded. Wearing a mask, he pointed out, “will definitely mitigate [a person’s exposure].”

Even simple masks that doctors’ offices provide for people with coughs — to keep the germs from spreading to others — have some benefit, Farrell said.

Farrell also noted, “There are masks that are particularly good for small particles,” though they look like “space-age” equipment.

The best protection that he had found, Kusekoski indicated, is from a mask with the N95 classification.

Replenishing fish lost to red tide

Mason Tush, whose family owns CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, reported during the Feb. 20 Siesta Chamber meeting for members that the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) would be releasing about 2,000 redfish into the water at the Turtle Beach Park kayak launch that day.

Because shrimp are not affected much by red tide, he added, “There’s plenty of bait out there” for the new fish. Therefore, the hope, he said, is that the fish will grow quickly.

CCA Florida, Duke Energy and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) began releasing more than 16,000 juvenile and adult redfish in Southwest Florida counties in February “to address the loss to the fishery as a result of red tide devastation,” the CCC Florida website says.

Kudos for the Luckners

During the SKA Annual Breakfast Meeting on March 2, as outgoing President Gene Kusekoski was discussing issues on which the organization had worked over the past year, he offered an accolade to two people that the audience members seemed to agree was most apropos.

Kusekoski was discussing the SKA’s years-long effort to prevent the dredging of Big Sarasota Pass to renourish about 1.6 miles of South Lido Key Beach. “All of this work would not be possible without the tireless effort of the ‘Energizer Bunny’ team of Catherine Luckner and her husband, Bob,” Kusekoski said. “They will dig through the dust bunnies to find relevant bits of information.”

Catherine Luckner is the new president of the SKA. Bob Luckner long has been a member of the nonprofit’s Environmental Committee.

Coupons for food lovers

In this month’s edition, coupons are being offered by several advertisers, OfKors Donuts is offering a FREE donut with the coupon and Palermo Pizza is offering a discount coupon, both ads are on page 17. Pride of the South has a coupon on page 30 and Solorzano’s has discount coupons on the back page.