HOLMES BEACH -- Thousands of tourists came Monday to this friendly island on the western edge of Manatee County known for its slow pace, torrid sun, moist air, white beaches and blue skies.
Memorial Day revelers got all that, plus a dose of nonstop wind and raucous surf from morning until dusk.
The wind and scattered clouds it dragged with it didn't seem to take away from the reverence and relaxation of a day set aside to honor those gave their lives to safeguard American freedom.
"Windy, but still a beautiful day," said Elaine Nabach of Brandon as she watched her daughter, Michelle Nabach, hold tightly to the family's umbrella against a gust along the Manatee Public Beach.
If there existed a directory of "military families of the Tampa Bay area," the Nabachs, who shared the beach with others who romped in the high surf, would certainly be on it.
Michelle Nabach, Elaine's daughter, works in port security for the U.S. Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf and at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay.
"We're Unit 307 out of St. Petersburg," Michelle Nabach said.
Both Elaine and her husband, James, are in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and another son, William, is an active duty lieutenant commander in the U.S. Coast Guard.
"We tried to get James Junior but he slipped through our fingers," Elaine Nabach laughingly said of her oldest son, who has not yet decided to serve.
So, why did this family come to Anna Maria Island to honor Manatee County with its presence on Memorial Day?
"We like that we can get off Interstate 75 there at State Road 64 and come west right to Holmes Beach," Elaine Nabach said.
"And Brandon Beach sucks," her husband joked.
Brandon, east of downtown Tampa, has no beach.
"Seriously, we like this beach," Elaine Nabach said. "We could go to Clearwater, but we like it here better."
Sandino clan comes to town
Besides hosting a passionate family of patriots in the Nabach clan, Manatee County also was honored by the Sandino clan, a family of 18 from Fort Lauderdale with ancestors from Central America, South America and the West Indies.
A working family whose time off is precious, the entire Sandino family chose a bay just east of the public beach to spend Memorial Day.
It was here, just east of the pretty "Welcome to Anna Maria Island" sign, that the clan parked their huge, white rented van at noon Monday, fired up a grill, off-loaded cooking supplies on a nearby picnic table and fishing poles and got ready for some cooking, fishing, singing and dancing.
"We got on the Internet and found this place," said Marciana Sandino, spokesperson for the group.
The family's most charismatic member may be Mogely Morris, a preco-cious 9-year-old whoone day hopes to be an actress.
"Our family could have its own reality TV show called, 'Good Times Through Bad Times,'" Mogely said.
If one visited their picnic site, perhaps the most remarkable thing was the food they were preparing.
One could be excusedfor wondering how such a family could agree on one Memorial Day main entree when they come from Colombia in South America, the Dominican Republic in the West Indies, and Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama in Central America.
"Rice and beans andbarbecued chicken," said family member Marcelina Ardines, answering the $64,000 question.
"We all agree the first thing is to prepare the chismol,a topping made of tomato, onion and bell pepper.That goes over the chicken."
As the rice cooked and the meat was prepared for the grill, the family laughed and joked in Spanish.
"Everyone has to be back to work on Tuesday, so we wanted a place that would be a peaceful vacation," Marciana Sandino said.
Some wandered off to fish. Some sat and played with the babies. Some chopped tomatoes and onions and just enjoyed the beach air.
Marciana Sandino stopped her food preparation for a moment and said, "Memorial Day is a time out from all of our busy lives."
Meanwhile, further south at Coquina Beach, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and Manatee County EMS responded to a report of a near drowning at 1:36 p.m. Monday.
A lifeguard at Tower 4 on Coquina Beach reported the incident, classified as a diving/scuba accident.The person was taken to Blake Medical Center in noncritical condition, an ECC representative said.
When EMS arrived, the person was out of the water and breathing.
Richard Dymond, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.