Christmas on Bridge Street benefits food banks, animal shelters in Manatee

ejohnson@bradenton.comDecember 16, 2012 

BRADENTON BEACH -- It was a day of holiday fun and activities Saturday in Bradenton Beach during the annual Christmas on Bridge Street celebration.

The day kicked off at 10 a.m. with a holiday bazaar at stores and the weekend market. Kids made crafts and painted windows of local businesses, said Caryn Hodge, member of the Bridge Street Merchants Association, which hosted the event.

"This gets people out to see what we have to offer and into the holiday spirit," Hodge said.

More than $2,500 of donated gift baskets and wreaths were given in prize drawings, with proceeds going to benefit the Manatee County Food Bank and All Island Denominations Food Bank.

"We're spreading the word about what we offer," said Blane Turpin, vice president of programs for Meals on Wheels Plus.

"Needless to say, we serve more people at the holidays. As the food comes in, it goes out. So we're always looking for ways to replace the demand."

For the first time, the event will also benefit Manatee County Animal Services' no-kill initiative.

Even children, who paid to set up booths, sold crafts and baked goods to make money for donations.

"It's a fun little business project for them," Hodge said.

Emily Turner-Leathem, 12, and Katie Krokroskia, 11, made scarves with hand pockets for kids and adults and marshmallow shooters. Proceeds from their "doggie scarves" will go to local no-kill shelters.

Anna Pears sold hand-crafted jewelry and signs painted to Santa Claus.

Savannah Higgins, 12, freshened up old artwork.

"We found old paintings in the garage that we touched up and glued starfish to," said Higgins, who also sold painted Christmas tree ornaments. She also planned to donate proceeds to the no-kill shelter.

Her brother created holiday decorations to raise money to buy Christmas gifts.

"My mom went to Home Depot and got the branches," said Bryson Higgins, 10. "I tied string around them and attached a pine cone or Santa (figurine)."

Sky Kirkwood, 10, soldcalendars, greeting cardsand notepads she madewith her sister, Ocean, 14, that are regularly sold at the "Ocean's Notions" booth at Bridge Street's weekly market.

"It's taught them a lot about having their own business," said their mother, Julie. "And it's a great outlet for their creativity."

People ventured down the stretch of quaint storefronts toward the pier where they signed up for prize drawings and browsed vendor items.

Fourth- and fifth-grade drama and chorus students from Rowlett Magnet Elementary School performed "North Pole Musical."

"We've been working on it for about a month. We perform our annual holiday show Thursday at Southeast High School," said drama teacher Starloe Galletta, who coordinated the show with chorus teacher Cathy Noeth. "This is one of our favorite events. And the kids are providing altruism for their community."

Children, and someadults, played in flakesproduced by a snow machine while carolers from a nearby neighborhood performed for Santa Claus' arrival.

The night ended with the Cortez Yacht Club's boat parade.

"The holidays are a tough time for a lot of families who don't have money to buy presents or put food on the table," Hodge said. "It's important we help."

Elizabeth Johnson, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. Follow her on Twitter @EJohnsonBHcrime.

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