Manatee Association of Realtors celebrate 100 years, with finale at Riverwalk

MANATEE -- With just two months remaining before its merger with the Sarasota Association of Realtors becomes official, Manatee County's Realtor group is moving into the future with a bang this weekend as it ends a year-long celebration of its 100th anniversary.

Since February, the 1,400-member Manatee Association of Realtors has held a series of public events to mark epochs in the history of the organization. That history has included numerous name changes, leaps forward in how technology is used to sell real estate, and constant adjustment to the peaks and slumps in the market.

On Saturday, the group will hold its grand finale event on the Riverwalk in Bradenton. With food, beverages and entertainment in the offing between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the free public event will give a nod to MAR's most recent history, the years 1990 to 2014.

The organization's current president, ReMax Alliance Group Realtor Sherry Grooms, said MAR has used the past year to remind its members and educate the public about what MAR has accomplished since it was founded in 1914 by Walter Harden as the Bradenton Real Estate Board.

The upcoming merger, which was approved last month, is not an end point for MAR.

"History can never be lost, only built upon by new adventures," Grooms said. "One hundred years from now, members will look back and realize this merger is as monumental as President Harding's filing for the Bradenton Real Estate Board."

Since its founding, MAR has been known as the Manatee County Board of Realtors, the Manatee County Board of Realtors Inc. and, as of 1998, by its current name. It was a Bradenton-centered organization until 2008, when it moved out of West Brandenton to new headquarters in Lakewood Ranch.

Celebratory events in 2014 have included a children's scavenger hunt in February, a veteran-themed recognition of the organization's history between 1940 and 1964 in April, and an August event focused on education.

Barry Grooms, a past president of MAR and the current president's husband, said the Manatee association is one of a number of century-old Realtor groups in Florida. It was founded nine years before the Sarasota Association of Realtors. As the older group in the upcoming merger, its history will be a starting point for the new association, the Suncoast Realtor Association. Suncoast is expected to have 5,000 members when it begins operations in January.

The Realtor associations are professional groups comprised of members working in the local real estate industry and associate members involved in related industries. They offer educational and social events for their members.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter@MattAtBradenton.