Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Ready to Roll

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Ready to Roll

Article excerpt

MANATEE COUNTY

For a couple of hours Monday morning, anything goes on Gulf Drive as people show off their patriotism and creativity during the annual Fourth of July Parade on Anna Maria Island.

The 7-mile route is so long that walkers are prohibited. Over the years, the "wheels only" rule has fueled imaginations as people decorate everything from themselves on skates to cabin cruisers normally found in the gulf waters just yards away.

The event, hosted by the Anna Maria Island Privateers, is expected to attract upward of 115 entries and 20,000 spectators to the island as the parade snakes from the south end of Coquina Beach to the Anna Maria City Pier. Anyone who wants to join in can do so, for free.

"Whatever your imagination is -- as long as it is on wheels," said Tim "Hammer" Thompson, a 16-year club member. "In all honesty, it's not a parade. It's put on applications as a procession because we don't stop traffic, but we slow it down a lot."

The Privateers' 60-foot Scullywag will be joined by two other ships, one from the Hernando de Soto Historical Society in Bradenton and the other from Ye Mystic Krewe of Santa Margarita in Tampa, in addition to decorated golf carts, Segways, bicycles, skaters and trucks towing trailered boats.

For the next couple of days throughout Anna Maria Island, people will attach streamers, banners, flags and all things patriotic to their parade entries.

Sandpiper Mobile Resort residences enter a contingent of five or six golf carts. The Bradentucky Bombers roller derby teams usually send players to roller skate the route. The Holmes Beach Police Department boat is a perennial entry as are scores of private boats filled people waving flags and tossing beads.

One year, the U.S. Army Reserve sent a tank equipped with rubber tracks. Another year, Thompson said, an inline skater from Lakeland rolled along the route playing patriotic songs on an electric guitar as a battery pack powered the amplifiers perched on his shoulders. …

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