ANNA MARIA -- So clear and sunny, Saturday was a perfect day for fancy hats, parades, and egg hunts as Anna Maria celebrated spring.
The day began with the 27th Annual Sandbar Easter Egg Hunt, which attracted kids to the soft beach near The Sandbar Restaurant, at the northern tip of the island, facing the Gulf of Mexico.
Then came a parade down Pine Avenue behind the Easter bunny, along with face-painting, coloring, egg rolls and free quiche, ham and biscuits.
In addition to the food, The Sandbar also lent a note of elegance to the proceedings with free mimosas, a combination of champagne and orange juice.
Crowds jammed the streets on foot, on bikes and aboard trolleys.
"I come to enjoy the festivities on the island," said Danielle Young, 39, of Orlando, who was vacationing with her daughter, Kaley, 7, and her son, Jacob, 5. They were visiting relatives, and had enjoyed the egg hunt, Young said.
An Easter bonnet competition attracted a large number of contestants, young and old, with an astonishing array of carefully crafted hats.
"I made it a year ago," said Natalie Henn, 9, of Greensboro, N.C. who had fashioned
a broad-brimmed creation trimmed with little eggs.
Last year, the family had had to cancel its trip due to an illness in the family, said Henn's grandmother, Marsha Gordon, also of Greensboro.
But Natalie was able to pull her hat out of storage and wear it proudly in the contest this year.
Concurrently, the area celebrated the Island Heritage Days Festival.
About 37 exhibitors had signed up to sell their wares in a park dating back to 1910, next to the Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum, 402 Pine Ave., said Maureen McCormick, president of the board of the Anna Maria Island Historical Society.
Among the offerings were baskets made out of pine needles, books, hats, T-shirts, wood carvings and shell art.
A musical street organ with more than 118 pipes, plus snare and bass drum, cymbal and wood block, sent its tunes wafting over the park.
Its owner, Ron Bopp, M.D., of Bradenton, said he had had the Dutch street organ made in Belgium, part of a hobbyist's interest in them. They date back more than a century, before boom boxes, iPods and what not, noted Bopp.
The street organ was nicknamed De Waterjuffer, or "The Dragonfly," he said.
"It makes happy music," explained Bopp.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.