Siesta Key Island Chatter

Siesta Key Breeze ridership stats

   Call it a “last hurrah,” for the time being: In February, the Siesta Key Breeze had 49,849 passengers, a 30.03% increase from the 38,336 it carried in February 2019, Sarasota County staff told the SNL.

   County Administrator Jonathan Lewis halted the trolley’s operations as a means of reducing the potential for people to head to Siesta Key’s beaches, after the county ordered those closed as of 6 a.m. on March 21. From March 1 through March 20, the number of passengers was 31,519, Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester reported.

   Altogether, in January and February, the Breeze had 89,129 passengers. Add in that number for part of March, and the total was 120,648.

   Readers will recall that the trolley had more than 350,320 riders in 2019.

No smoking bill ‘indefinitely postponed’ in Florida House

   As Florida legislators were wrapping up the work of the 2020 session, a Senate bill that would have allowed municipalities and counties to regulate smoking on beaches and in parks met its end in the House.

   A March 14 notation in the history of Senate Bill 630 said the bill had been “Indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration” in the Florida House.

   Nine days earlier, the bill had passed the Florida Senate on a vote of 39-1.

State’s bid for more vacation rental powers ‘Died in Rules’

   Regular readers also will recall that new efforts were launched in the Florida Legislature’s session this year to give the state more power to supervise short-term vacation rentals. That initiative failed, as well, the SNL learned.

   As the session was drawing to a formal close on March 13 — except for finalization of the budget — a notation in the history of Senate Bill 1128 said it had “Died in Rules” on March 14, referring to the Senate’s Committee on Rules.

   The original bill would have “grandfathered in” Sarasota County’s existing regulations, as they were in effect prior to a date included in the bill. Nonetheless, local leaders were worried that an amendment during consideration of the new law would remove that stipulation.

A happy note for beach-nesting birds, so far

   With Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office personnel and county employees working to keep people off Siesta Public Beach, in accord with the county’s March directive, is it possible the endangered snowy plovers might see chicks survive and thrive this year?

   As of the deadline for this Siesta Sand issue, the outlook appeared positive.

   Kylie Wilson, coordinator of Audubon Florida’s Bird Monitoring & Stewardship Program in Sarasota County, wrote, in a March 27 email to volunteers and supporters, “It has been an exciting week. … [W]e officially have our first nest of the season! Ms. Sanibel, the banded Snowy Plover who has nested on Siesta the past two seasons, has returned and is already on a nest with 3 eggs!”

   Wilson noted the significance of that observation: “This is earlier nesting for Snowy Plovers on Siesta than we have observed in past seasons. Maybe due to less activity because of the beach closures? Normally Spring Break is happening this time of year and our plovers seem to wait it out, typically nesting in mid to late April.”

   Wilson added that in looking for the “silver lining” of the COVID-19 pandemic, she was speculating that with fewer people on the beach, “the birds are able to nest and rest with less disturbance!”

   On April 5, Wilson provided more potentially good news for the Siesta plovers, after acknowledging again the vastly different circumstances under which she is working this season:

“This week has been a little crazy but the good news is that I am still able to survey the beaches. I will be cutting back my surveys to once a week for each site to minimize my time outside. It is a very difficult time we are in now but staying home is the number one thing we can do. Audubon is taking all necessary precautions,” she continued, for which, she noted, she is “very thankful.”

   As a member of Audubon’s staff, Wilson added, “I am working closely with the county to keep the birds safe and being sure to follow the state guidelines to keep myself safe.”

   Then turning to the latest situation on Siesta, she noted, “Our Snowy Plover momma, Ms. Sanibel, is still dutifully sitting on her nest. There is another pair that seems to be settling in [on another section of public beach]. That female is gravid, meaning she looks to be carrying eggs, so hopefully we will have our second nest soon!” 

   The past couple of years, chicks have hatched on Siesta, but predators snatched them before they could reach the point of being able to fly, Wilson and Audubon volunteers reported.

Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival dates announced

   The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce believes it’s important to look ahead and focus on positive initiatives and future events that greatly benefit our community. With that comes the announcement that the 11th Annual Siesta Key Crystal Classic is scheduled for November 13-16, 2020 on Siesta Beach. According to the press release, the committee is already working hard behind the scenes addressing the many components and details of this highly significant event. The Chamber is also proud to announce that Andy Daily, a local artist, business man, and Master Sand Sculptor, will take the lead as Sand Management Team Coordinator. Updates regarding event information, artist recruitment, vendor registration, advance ticket sales, etc. will be shared as they become available.

Caption: Andy Daily, Master Sand Sculpture, will take the lead as Sand Management Team Coordinator for the Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting.

Siesta Fiesta rescheduled for October 2020

   The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce has announced that the 42nd Annual Siesta Fiesta Art Festival, produced by Howard Alan Events, has been rescheduled for October 24 – 25, 2020 in Siesta Key Village. Stroll along Ocean Blvd. while enjoying fine art and handmade crafts from 200 of the nation’s most talented artists and crafters. Originally scheduled for April, “We were thrilled to be offered a reschedule date by Howard Alan, and look forward to a great fall on Siesta Key,” says Ann Frescura, Executive Director of the Siesta Key Chamber.

Key Chorale receives funds from Huisking Foundation

   Key Chorale’s Cirque des Voix® should have been their most profitable and exciting event of the season with revenues from the event helping make ends meet as they planned for the upcoming season. While they run a very lean organization, you can imagine the devastating financial impact of this major event being cancelled. That’s why the organization was so thankful when they received $5,000 in matching funds to aid during the 24-hour Giving Challenge on April 28 & 29. During this online campaign, each gift up to $100, will be matched through giving strengthened by the Patterson Foundation, and will provide the funds necessary to keep Key Chorale strong and vital. Additionally, the first $5000 raised will be matched by the Huisking Foundation on behalf of Key Chorale.

   Funds raised through the Giving Challenge will help to get Key Chorale through this period when no revenues are coming in. “We are committed to being here for you and our community after this health crisis has passed. We vow to keep our entire community singing and to add beauty, hope, and healing to our world through music,” says Key Chorale’s Artistic Director, Joseph Caulkins.

   April and May are typically busy months for Key Chorale’s important community outreach with Visible Men Academy, an at-risk school for K-5 boys, in which Key Chorale brings music to 100 students who wouldn’t have a music program otherwise. Spring music sessions were cancelled due to school closures. Off-Key Chorale, for those living with Parkinson’s, and Where Are My Keys? Chorale, a choir for those dealing with memory loss, had to cancel their spring rehearsals. In the meantime, Key Chorale has moved to YouTube and launched its Come Together Choir, Online Choral Rehearsals, with more than 350 registered from all over the country – and beyond. These episodes help singers to feel connected and to continue to experience the transformative power of music in a time when we all need it more than ever.

   During the COVID-19 crisis, Key Chorale created the Come Together Choir, Online Choral Rehearsals, as a way for singers throughout the country, and beyond, to come together and enjoy singing safely while social distancing.