Fourth of July Weekend to jam Anna Maria Island

acastillo@bradenton.comJuly 3, 2014 

ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- Plan on spending Fourth of July weekend in Anna Maria Island?

Expect it to be crammed.

Law enforcement officials are beefing up security on the beaches and hotels sprinkled throughout the island are receiving a peak in calls from those interested in enjoying the holiday weekend there.

Over in Bradenton Beach, Police Chief Sam Speciale has been busy preparing for the influx of people. Reserve officers, officers working overtime, reserve officers with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and even a few mounted posse officers will be on the clock this weekend.

"It's a big weekend," Speciale said. "Obviously we're concerned about the number of people out here, but for the most part everything goes fairly well."

The island's ongoing issue with parking and traffic congestion will create headaches for many on the island. Speciale shared tips to help alleviate travel pains this weekend.

"Just get here early -- carpool if you can," he said. "Obviously, the less vehicles, the better."

Speciale encouraged use of alternate transportation such as the Manatee County Area Transit service.

"That's our biggest thing," he said. "People wait until noon or 1 p.m. and the traffic will be backed up all the way into town."

Sgt. Paul Davis of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office Anna Maria Unit said a handful of extra deputies will be on duty the entire holiday weekend in the city of Anna Maria, where the sheriff's office provides law enforcement.

"We're going to be enforcing the parking and beach regulations," he said. "We want to make sure that everybody has a proper place to park. As long as there aren't signs that say don't park here, you're allowed to park as long as long as you park with the flow of traffic and completely off the pavement."

Fireworks? Forget about them.

"Don't bring your own because we will confiscate them," he said.

A $20,000 public fireworks display by Orlando's Creative Pyrotechnics will be held at BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, starting at dark and lasting 15 to 20 minutes.

"It's a special time of the year when generations come together historically on Anna Maria," said owner Ed Chiles earlier this week.

Katy Demick, resort manager for the four Anna Maria Island Beach Resorts, said all locations are booked for the weekend.

"We're probably getting a good 10, 15 calls every hour," she said.

Demick, resort manager for a decade, said it's proving to be a good weekend.

"It's wonderful. The more we book, the happier I am," she said with a laugh. "People are traveling and really looking for this weekend and wanting to get away."

Judy Parks and her friend, Fran Coryell, both 72, spent time Wednesday at Manatee Public Beach but plan on staying far from the island this weekend.

"Traffic and the crowds," Parks cited as their main reasons for opting out.

Coryell, who lives in Brandon, said she and her longtime friend avoid all that. Parks nodded in agreement.

"We outgrew it," Coryell said.

-- Kate Irby contributed to this report.

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter@AmarisCastillo.

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