ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- There was something big missing from Sunday's 17th annual Beach Bistro St. Patrick's Day Parade in Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island.
Judy the Elephant, a sweet animal who graced a good portion of the past parades, died in the last 12 months, but she was not forgotten, said parade organizer and Beach Bistro owner Sean Murphy.
Murphy helped organize a memorial to Judy in the form of a New Orleans' jazz-style funeral march around an elephant float during Sunday's parade, which was attended by a crowd estimated at 10,000.
"We also have two camels with us," said Murphy, referring to Harry and Shortie. "And the mayors of Holmes Beach and Anna Maria Island and commissioners Carol Whitmore and John Chappie."
The 25-block long parade featured roughly 100 entries this year, including the Southeast and Braden River high school bands as well as the Electa Lee Middle School band.
"Everyone who wants to be in can be in," Murphy said.
The parade started on the corner of Marina and Gulf drives, headed north on Marina to Palm and stopped at 78th Street in Holmes Beach, Murphy said.
The first parade 17 years ago had one float, with Murphy's children in it, several horses and police officers and a guy with a big red boat, Murphy said.
It seemed that many people caught a case of "Island time" euphoria as the parade just casually unfolded with no one in much of a hurry.
Bob and Kate Shaw, dressed in green, just sat and soaked in the feeling even long after the parade was passed.
"I met Kate at a bank in Lemars, Iowa, in 1965 and we got married in 1967," said Bob Shaw, putting his arm around his wife. "She worked at the bank and I was selling candy for Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I up through the drive-through window, saw this girl and that was it."
The Shaws have been coming to the Island for 14 years.
"This is fun," Bob Shaw said of the parade. "We live in a resort area back in Iowa called Okoboji. To us this is an upscale Okoboji in March when it is 80 degrees when Iowa is sub-zero and our lakes are frozen."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.