HOLMES BEACH -- A few years ago, four friends came up with the idea to bring some holiday spirit to Holmes Beach by way of a small Christmas tree.
The thought stuck and on Thursday, Evelyn Goss, her husband, D, and friends, Trish and Dean Chandler, celebrated their fourth annual Christmas on Manatee Public Beach.
Hundreds of locals and visitors stopped to take photos of the decorated tree, which was planted on the sand just before 10 a.m.
"We must (have) taken 300 pictures ... there were about 20 people in line with their iPads to take pictures of themselves in front of the tree," said 62-year-old Evelyn Goss. "We had Canadians; we had people from England; last year, we had people from Germany and Norway."
For Goss, who works and lives with her husband, 68, in Colony Cove, it's a way to spread cheer throughout the area. The couple drove to the beach from their home with the partly decorated tree in tow.
It was a sight to see as they cruised along in their 1995 Mustang convertible. People snapped photos as they passed by and when D carried the tree to the beach.
"They thought it was so cool," Goss said.
"People were so genuinely appreciative and would say, 'Oh my gosh! I can't believe you're doing this.'"
When it was complete, the tree was covered in silver tinsel, candy canes and dotted with a few poinsettia flowers. On top was a bundled-up snowman and below was a red tree skirt with the words "Merry Christmas" on it.
Trish Chandler, 56, said she was amazed by some visitors who told her they looked for her and her Christmas tree crew after stumbling into the tree on Christmas day over the past few years.
There was even a couple from England, who gave their family members gift cards with the image of themselves by the Holmes Beach Christmas tree.
"We were just amazed. We couldn't believe it," the Michael Saunders & Co. Realtor said. "It fills your heart with joy because you don't realize how many people look forward to seeing us every year."
Throughout this past year, Chandler bought small items whenever she'd see something on sale -- candy included. She saved the gifts for handing them out to children who stopped by to marvel at the tree on Thursday.
"People try to pay us and we say, 'Absolutely not; no way.' That would take away from this," she said. "We're doing this out of the goodness of our hearts and to show the visitors in Manatee and Sarasota counties how friendly we are and just to show them the love and kindness that the people here exemplify."
A 7 1/2-foot tree that's pre-lit has already been bought for next year's Christmas in Holmes Beach. Goss said they also plan on throwing in some Christmas music.
Goss said she and her husband declined an invitation to a friends' gathering on Christmas Day because of their meaningful tradition.
"That is our Christmas -- our Christmas is the four of us going to the beach with our tree," she said. "People just love it."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.