Manatee residents skip Black Friday for quieter activities

srocco@bradenton.comNovember 30, 2013 

MANATEE -- Never mind the deeply discounted computers and cameras.

Never mind the camping out, the greedy crowds.

Luke Gartside, 28, spent Black Friday morning alone on a bench by Twin Dolphin Marina in downtown Bradenton. Only a book, a cup of coffee and the familiar scent of the sea kept him company.

"I don't like crowds too much," he said, "and I can

buy a TV any day."

Gartside, along with other Manatee residents, chose to skip the Black Friday fracas and do something a little quieter instead. Some visited a museum, others picked strawberries. Families strolled the Riverwalk while a weak wind rocked the palm trees above.

"When people don't want to shop, they'll go to downtown Bradenton to enjoy the Da Vinci machines exhibit and the South Florida Museum. It's a great time for family and friends to enjoy arts and culture in downtown Bradenton," said Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Kandee Macqueen leaned over the turquoise rail waiting for Snooty the Manatee to break out of hiding at aquarium at the South Florida Museum.

"I guess when you're that old you get to do what you want. Maybe he had too much turkey," she smiled.

Macqueen brought her 7-year-old grandson to the South Florida Museum to practice his reading, to tear him away from video games. Shopping didn't interest her.

"There's very little that I buy anymore, and Black Friday takes the spirit out of Christmas, especially when you're just trying to slam someone else," she said.

By 10:30 a.m., the museum had only been open half an hour, but 40 people had already been through, said museum clerk Debby LaMontaine.

At Fort Hamer Park near Parrish, all was silent except for the gurgling of a small jon boat in the river.

Two fishermen cast lines at the end of the park's dock.

One, Walter Tomashevsky, sat on a small red cooler with a fishing pole in his hand, another wedged underneath his dark gray New Balance sneaker. His buddy Will Reinhardt had already been out at 7 a.m. that morning for a drill that was on sale at Lowe's Home Improvement and a picture frame at Walmart.

"I will never go to Black Friday," said Tomashevsky, who is originally from the Ukraine. "I have a big success at garage sales sometimes."

Over at O'Brien Family Farm in East Manatee, Greg Maurer, 58, had two strawberries in his pail. Berry picking, which Maurer and his wife like to do a few times each month, was more important than hitting the stores. After all, Black Friday has become puzzling, he said.

"It used to start on Friday, but now it starts on Thanksgiving and the whole thing is confusing," he said. "We don't really do it."

Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.

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