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Rain fails to slow holiday bustle

MANATEE -- While much of the United States was experiencing typical cold and snowy winter weather Saturday, Manatee County residents contended with rain-slick highways in what is usually a dry season. But the rain apparently did little to discourage holiday shoppers.

Most special events went on as scheduled, including the Winter Festival and Luminary Walk at DeSoto National Memorial Park, Manatee County’s tour of lights and the seventh-annual Cortez Yacht Club lighted boat parade.

“Yes, we’re on, even if it sprinkles or rains,” said Laura Ritter, one of the organizers of the lighted boat parade. “We’re outdoor folks.”

Organizers of the 12th annual Christmas Golf Cart Parade decided to postpone their event by one day.

Horseshoe Cove, 5100 60th St. E., will have its parade at 6 p.m. today.

Park residents also plan to show off their carts at 6 p.m. Monday at neighboring Pleasant Lakes Mobile Home Park and at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Windmill Manor and Westwinds Mobile Home Park.

Manatee County saw about a tenth of an inch of rain Saturday, associated with a cold front, according to Colleen Rhea of the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

Shoppers were not deterred from heading out Saturday, despite the cloudy skies, said Brent Gardner, mall manager at DeSoto Square.

“All day we’ve had strong traffic,” Gardner said. He described Saturday as being very “positive” for the mall.

Overall this holiday season has seen more shoppers hitting the malls than in recent years, according to Gardner.

One of those shoppers, Dorothy Williams of Palmetto, said, “Nothing can deter me, not even the rain. I like to come to the mall this time of the year. I like to people watch and enjoy the spirit that everyone is in.”

There was a small spike in car accidents early Saturday during the rain, according to Glenn Hedgecoth, a duty officer supervisor in communications at the Florida Highway Patrol. But by late afternoon, accident levels went back to normal.

The most serious of those accidents may have been one involving a 19-year-old woman at Lakewood Ranch about 12:28 p.m.

She lost control of her vehicle while entering a curve too quickly in the wet conditions and traveled off Town Center Parkway, hitting a tree.

She was airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center in critical condition, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.

Today is forecast to have partly cloudy skies, with the highs in the mid 60s near the coast and upper 60s inland, Rhea said. Low temperatures are expected to hit the mid-40s near the coast and upper 30s inland.

Paradise Afshar, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 748-0411, ext. 7024.