MANATEE -- Band camp at Lakewood Ranch High School has been grueling this summer for rising freshman flute player Taylor Thompson, 15.
So, on Sunday, Taylor took a break and traveled with her mom, Jeannette, to the Premium Outlets in Ellenton to get back-to-school clothes during what might be the best time of the year to do it -- the annual Florida sales tax holiday.
The holiday, which began Friday and ended Sunday, was expected to be the busiest time of the year for local retailers, second only to the Christmas season.
If the three-football-field-long trek the Thompsons had to make from the north parking lot at the Outlets to reach the shopping area was any indication, the weekend was a big success.
In fact, by about 1:15 p.m., every parking place at the mall was filled and nearly every store at the mall was buzzing like a bee hive.
Employees of the stores at the mall indicated that thousands of shoppers came during the three-day tax-saving event.
"Saturday was very, very good," said Parrish's Dave Leonard, who works at Sunglass Pro II at the Outlet mall. "Sunday looks just as good. I would say the number of shoppers is well into the thousands."
At Bealls, at the Creekwood Shopping Center, the aisles were also packed.
"It's like a zoo in there," said Sam Crank of Creekwood, who scored an $80 pair of Sketchers walking shoes for $54 on Sunday using coupons and tax savings.
Gap was pretty crowded when Jeannette and Taylor walked in at the Outlets.
"Our plan is to get some shirts and shoes," Jeannette Thompson said. "I want her to feel special that first day of school."
Taylor tried on some shoes and checked out some shorts.
"Whatever transforms us into a supermodel," Taylor said when asked what high school freshmen girls are seeking while shopping this year.
Taylor is 5-foot-11, but she said she won't grow another inch.
"I had a good talking to with my legs," Taylor said.
"She could do stand-up comedy," Jeannette added.
Mary Kavanashansky, owner of Moda Search Group, a recruiter of accounting and finance personnel based in Lakewood Ranch, was out shopping at Bealls Sunday because, well, what would you expect of an accounting and finance person faced with no sales tax?
"I got great deals," Kavanshansky said.
She bought a yellow beach bag that retailed for $30 for $10. She got four tumblers that retailed for $6 for $2 and a pair of, in her words, "purple skinny jeans," for $20 even though they retailed for $40."I got all this for $29," Kavanshansky said. "I saved $69. I used coupons and the tax holiday."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686 or tweet @RichardDymond