ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- Lisa Immig leaves frosty Sheboygan, Wis., every March to journey to Anna Maria Island to attend The Beach Bistro's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade.
"I love charities, like the Anna Maria Island Privateers," said Immig, who whispered excitedly to her granddaughter, Cianna, 5, "The pirate ship is coming up," as the huge Privateer float approached.
Immig and her family joined thousands of others who experienced cool and cloudy weather and electricity in the air precisely at4 p.m. Sunday when the 14th annual parade took off.
Besides about 20 floats, the Southeast High School Marching Band, Judy the Parade Elephant and two camels, this year featured the debut of the Sham Rockin' Festival, which ran from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and included 35 vendors of art, crafts, retail and food, said Cindy Thompson of The Anna Maria Island Community Center.
"We are hoping to net more than $10,000 for kids' scholarships," said Scott Dell, the center's interim
As crowds filtered in for he parade, they came to the field adjacent to the Holmes Beach City Hall and found tempting things at Sham Rockin', like the artworkof 14-year-old Rolf Hellem-Brusso, who has beenpainting for three years and selling his art for two years.
Some of the highlights:
n Gerry Thomas decided she wanted to celebrate her birthday with the crowd so she urged her son, Don, to bring his 1957 Corvette from up north to Anna Maria Island and take her in the parade.
She turned 91 Sunday.
A sign on the back of the Corvette read, "See you next year!"
n Becky Mindrum, who lives in Sandpiper on Bradenton Beach, delighted the crowd with her green high socks.
"I love this parade," the not-bashful Mindrum said.
n Amy Scott, proprietor of Amy's Southern Comfort Cuisine, sold her homemade shepherd's pie and corned beef and cabbage at the event.
n Judy the Elephant, who turned 55 this year, loggedher fourth straight parade.She was joined by a pairof camels named Oscar and Magoo who paraded with her.
The animals come from Bell, a Florida town about 240 miles north of the island, and they are trucked down by their handler, Bones Craig, owner of H.C. Craig.
"Judy is from Thailand or central Asia and was brought to the United States in the 1960s when they needed baby elephants for TV," Craig said.
"She may have been a spoof prize on 'Let's Make a Deal.' She was also usedto get people to go to thefirst shopping centers.They would have petting zoos."
Judy is a loner but seems to enjoy the parade, Craig said.
n The hit of the Sham Rockin' Festival may have been the New World Celtic Dancers, who got a big ovation for their work.
The troupe was led by instructor Gretchen Rath,