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Power of a dream seen all along Main Street

It was a privilege watching Kenny Crawley play drums Friday night at Music on Main.

Don’t know the technical jargon to describe what he was doing, so let’s just say he plays with power, grace, assurance and a sense of fun.

Another drummer might say Crawley has good technique. No, make that great technique.

All good qualities to have when playing with that accomplished good-time outfit, the Billy Rice Band.

Crawley’s resume also includes playing with, among others, the great Bo Diddley, Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers Band and Brian Johnson of AC/DC.

Now, move forward to Saturday at Main Street in Lakewood Ranch, with musical talent of another kind at Ovation: the extraordinary pipes of singers like Daryl Freedman and Jeffrey Beruan of the Sarasota Opera.

Also, youngsters like Channing Weir of Lakewood Ranch High School and Alexandra Fuchs of Let’s Rock Sarasota showed they can belt out songs with the best of them.

Don’t want to put pressure on anyone, but don’t be surprised if we hear a lot more from those young people in the future. Alexandra is only 12 and already she’s righteously singing Adele and The Beatles.

Another performer who got a lot of attention -- without singing a note -- was Mark Twain, as portrayed by Rod Rawlings of Bradenton. The eye was drawn to him, as he fiddled with a cigar and the way he just stood there and became Samuel Clemens.

Nick Williams, a reporter who joined The Herald last week and will be covering East Manatee, walked down Main Street with me Friday afternoon and asked how long the dining and entertainment district had been there.

Not that long, I responded. Just a few years. Before that this was all cattle pasture. A great leap of faith to think about putting down a new retail district in this neck of the woods.

Being new to the area, Nick looks at everything with fresh eyes and has a sponge-like curiosity.

He got me to thinking about Main Street, and how it now attracts thousands of people from all over Manatee and Sarasota counties.

When plans for Lakewood Ranch Main Street were announced in late 2002, John Swart, then the vice president of real estate for developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, looked to the future and said the new retail district had the “potential to become a regional focus.”

John Clarke, then the chief executive officer of SMR, said Main Street would be “a vibrant and pulsing entity.”

Rex Jensen, who stepped up to become CEO of SMR when Clarke retired, said it would become “the sensational heart of Lakewood Ranch.”

Over the next few years, new businesses gradually opened along the street and Lakewood Ranch Cinemas added the exclamation point to the story in 2006.

There have been setbacks along the way, including the disappointing closing of anchor Morton’s Market a few years back.

But that has been offset by the location of an enviable list of dining places along the street, including the Polo Grill, which last week hosted about 500 people for the Manatee Chamber of Commerce annual banquet.

Lakewood Ranch Main Street has become what Clarke, Jensen and others envisioned just a few short years ago.

The presence of Kenny Crawley, Daryl Freedom, Channing Weir and all that foot traffic along the street were proof of the power of a dream.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021. Tweet: @jajones1

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