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Homespun St. Paddy’s parade pulls on hearts

ANNA MARIA — It’s not a parade that rivals Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York or The Rose Bowl Parade in California for spectacle, glamor or glitz.

But for many, the homespun St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Anna Maria Island has a pull as strong as gravity.

Lifelong Anna Maria Island resident Gazella Bear, who hasn’t missed the parade in 15 years, found its familiar sights and sounds were instruments of healing Sunday, helping her cope with a sudden great sadness in her life. On Saturday, Bear’s father, 95-year-old Nathan Winters, died.

“I knew he was failing, but when he died it was still a shock,” Bear said. “You aren’t prepared no matter how you try to prepare. You just realize you won’t see him or hear him again.”

Bear, who grew up on Key Royale Drive in Anna Maria, said she had to be at the parade Sunday. Her father was a lover of the island and its annual parade, and she attended the parade in his honor. She also attended for her own sake.

“I just love it all,” Bear said. “I love the high school bands to the animals to the floats.”

She felt better waving to her friends on floats, many of whom probably didn’t know yet that her dad had died.

“I’ve had a beautiful day after,” Bear said.

She joined the hundreds lining the streets to watch the Southeast High School marching band, the Anna Maria Island Privateers pirate ship, the St. Paddy’s elephant and camel and a horde of people with green hair throwing beads from decorated golf carts.

Sure, it’s not one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but it’s home and it’s ours.

Watching the parade from Key Royale Drive is a tradition, said Key Royale resident Christina Mullaney, who attended in her Irish Pride T-shirt.

She got her neighbor, first-year paradegoer Dr. Steve Feinerman, a Tampa Bay medical doctor, to come out. The Feinermans bought a home on Key Royale Drive on Dec. 31.

“It’s awesome,” Feinerman said, excited as a kid. “A camel, an elephant and an Irish feeling.”

Seconds later the doctor’s cell phone rang and he was called into work on an emergency.

“But I just got to the parade,” he pleaded unsuccessfully into the phone.

Fortunately, his daughters, Hannah, 8, and Claire, 2, were already covered in beads and memories that may last a lifetime.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, Ext. 6686.

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