The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 18 - February 26, 2014


Carol Whitmore

cindy lane | sun


HOLMES BEACH – Wander down to the 77th Street beach access just before sunset, and you might encounter Neil Culbertson, “The Pied Piper of Robin’s Beach.”

Honoring an old Scottish tradition, Culbertson often ends his day standing on the beach, with bagpipes in hand, serenading the setting sun and those watching it, as it sinks below the Gulf of Mexico horizon. A reader recently expressed disdain for Culbertson’s piping affinities, but his fans far outweigh his critics. About 30 folks were on hand for his Monday, Feb. 17, performance; and he played to an even larger crowd the night before.

Monday’ evenings song selection included “Scotland the Brave,” “Flett from Flotta,” and “Auld Lang Sine.” The sun made its final stand to the strains of “Amazing Grace” and one more song ended a brief performance that was as much about friendship as it was about musicianship.

Culbertson typically arrives about 15 minutes before sunset. He plays a song, chats with friends, plays another, and chats some more. Each song lasts about 90 seconds.

“I do it because I like to play, and I know people like to hear it,” the jovial Culberson explained between songs.


Culbertson is a retired Verizon communications technician from Erie, Penn. He has been playing the bagpipes for 25 years, and he received his formal training at the Balmoral School of Piping in Pittsburgh.

“It’s just something I wanted to learn how to play. It’s not easy, let me tell you. It’s very hard,” he said.

Made in Cleveland, his African Blackwood bagpipes cost $1,200 10 years ago.

On occasion, Culbertson performs with the Sarasota Highlanders. Back home, he plays at Shriners’ events, wakes, funerals and an occasional Lake Erie sunset.

For the past seven years, he and his wife Patti have spent February and March on the Island, with most of those stays occurring in Holmes Beach.

Mrs. Culbertson usually attends her husband’s performances, but she took Monday night off in order to join friends at the Anna Maria Island Beach Café.

Culbertson can be found on the beach most evenings during his stay, but he is not adverse to taking a night off if the weather is bad or he has a social obligation to meet.

Dean and Jeanne Enrooth, from Minneapolis, stay near the 77th Street beach access. Before each performance, he provides Culbertson with a cocktail.

“That’s become our little routine,” Dean said.

“He makes you happy,” Jeanne added. “It’s a public beach and it’s not like he’s playing loud, rowdy music.”

Visiting from Pennsylvania, Lyle Stewart, joined his friend on the beach. “It’s a beautiful setting and nothing stirs the heart more than the pipes. Someday I’m going to learn how to play,” he said.

Robin's Beach

Culbertson’s sunset performances used to take place further north on the Island. He refers to his current location as Robin’s Beach, in tribute to his friend, Robin Giles.

They first met a few years ago while renting near one another at the north end of the Island. Giles became a fan, and last year invited him to play near her new spot on 77th Street.

“He started coming here, and one day he told his wife he had to go to Robin’s Beach, so it kind of stuck,” she explained.

Although she leads an active life, Giles sets aside time for Culbertson’s sunset serenades. “It’s an important part of my day. It’s a time to get together with friends and end the day,” she said.

As for the gentleman who suggested that Culbertson’s performances were disturbing the peace, Giles said, “That really upset him, but Neil has our support.”

Culbertson appreciates the encouragement: “I’m glad I got the support from the community to keep playing because I was a little bummed out. But I’m all over that; you can’t please everybody.”

His performance Monday night certainly pleased Jim and Kathy Stacy, from Columbus, Ohio, who returned after discovering him the previous night.

“Bagpipes we love,” she said. Her only complaint was that the performance was too short.

“You really have to stand pretty close to hear him, so I’m surprised anyone would complain,” Jim Stacy said.

“I spent 37 years in law enforcement so I’ve got an affinity for bagpipes. Bagpipes are a large part of law enforcement, and this means a lot to us.”

Former Los Angeles resident Karen Storms lives near the beach access and supports Culbertson’s endeavor. On New Year’s Eve, she heard him perform “Auld Lang Sine” as the sun set on 2013.

“That was just the most amazing, spiritual thing,” the still-active acting coach said of Culbertson’s year-end performance.


Wild chase ends in Anna Maria

ANNA MARIA – A reckless motorcyclist who crashed Thursday night kept some people awake and people speculating the next morning.

The motorcyclist, Brian M. Casey, 31, of northwest Bradenton, was arrested after Bradenton Beach Police Officer Eric Hill spotted him near the wreckage of the motorcycle at Coconut Avenue and Los Cedros Drive. He ran and hill was within 20 feet of him before the suspect got away. He was later captured, treated at the hospital and arrested.

According to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report, Casey was clocked at up to 120 miles per hour as he led authorities on a chase south to Sarasota County, west to Longboat Key and north to the end of Anna Maria Island. He went through Longboat Key at a high rate of speed, and they broke off the chase for the safety of other motorists and pedestrians, according to a Longboat Key police spokesman. Longboat Key police issued a BOLO (be on the lookout) to the Island police departments, and officers from all three departments followed him to Anna Maria. As they arrived, a resident heard a crash and heard somebody run through his back yard. The authorities found the wrecked motorcycle on its side in a shell driveway. There were gouges in the pavement. They found a tennis shoe that allegedly belonged to the motorcyclist.

The Sheriff’s Office helicopter was called in, and Hill saw him. Casey turned and ran. They found him in the back yard of the house at 165 Crescent Avenue as he ran to the front door. The helicopter saw him try to get in the house, and the officers and deputies caught up with him and detained him. He was wearing another tennis shoe that matched the one found on the road.

The suspect was wet because he went through a canal as he tried to flee. He was covered with foliage and debris from the canal water.

Before being read his rights, he asked why they were chasing him. He said he thought they had seen him do wheelies on the motorcycle. He then asked for medical treatment because his wrist and back were hurting. When asked why, he said, “Because I crashed the motorcycle.”

The deputy asked him if he crashed the bike that night and he said no, he crashed his son’s motorcycle.

Casey’s girlfriend confirmed he had a son and that the son did not have a motorcycle.

Casey was charged with reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, operating a motorcycle without a license and resisting law enforcement officers.

He was taken to jail after treatment at Blake Medical Center.

AMI rated No. 3 Island in U.S.

As the mid-March height of a bustling tourist season approaches, Anna Maria Island has been ranked third on TripAdvisor’s new list of top 10 island destinations in the U.S.

The listing mentions Bean Point, the Anna Maria Island Historical Museum, Leffis Key and the Island Players among favorite attractions. The Travelers’ Choice awards are based on reviews and opinions of TripAdvisor users, who rate the quality and quantity of hotels, restaurants and attractions over the past year.

The list includes 1. Marco Island, Fla.; 2. Chincoteague Island, Va.; 3. Anna Maria Island, Fla.; 4. San Juan Island, Wash.; 5. Maui, Hawaii; 6. Kauai, Hawaii; 7. Island of Hawaii, Hawaii; 8. Nantucket, Mass.; 9. Hilton Head, S.C.; 10. Key West, Fla.

Tour of homes tickets available March 1

ANNA MARIA – Tickets for the Island Community Center’s annual Tour of Homes are $20 and will be available for sale on March 1. The tour is set for Saturday, March 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes homes featuring distinctive architecture, elegant interiors and stunning waterfront views.

Tickets will be available at the following locations:

AMI Sun newspaper, 202 Palm Ave.; AMI Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave.; Ginny and Jane E’s, 9807 Gulf Drive; The White Egret, 10006 Gulf Drive; Anna Maria General Store and Deli, 307 Pine Ave., Egret’s Nest, 10010 Gulf Drive – all in Anna Maria; AMI Chamber of Commerce, 5313 Gulf Drive; Islander newspaper, 5404 Marina Drive; LaPensee Plumbing, 401 Manatee Ave.; The Egret’s Landing, 5602 Marina Drive; Island Fitness, 5317 Gulf Drive; Holmes Beach Ace Hardware, 3352 East Bay Drive – all in Holmes Beach; and Crowder Brothers Ace Hardware, 5409 Manatee Ave., Bradenton, and 2401 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Lakewood Ranch.

This year’s beautiful Tour of Homes quilt, named Directions to Paradise and made by the Eyeland Needlers, is on display in the Community’s Center’s lobby. Tickets to win the quilt are available at the Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria, for $1 each or six for $5.

Tour sponsors include
Beach to Bay Construction, Green Real Estate, Duncan Real Estate and the Island Sun. All proceeds benefit the Anna Maria Island Community Center, which services over 5,000 children, families and seniors with programs and services.

For more information call Sandee Pruett at 941-778-1908, ext. 0.

pat copeland | sun

The quilt named Directions to Paradise will
be raffled during the Tour of Homes.

Cast-n-Cage spreads it wings

joe hendricks | sun

The staff at Cast-n-Cage celebrated
opening day on Thursday, Feb. 20

BRADENTON BEACH – Located on the Bradenton Beach City Pier, the Cast-n-Cage restaurant opened its doors Thursday morning.

A busy breakfast business was followed by a steady lunch and dinner service that provided staff an opportunity to get accustomed to their new surroundings.

Proprietors Roland Pena and Tammy Kemper-Pena, daughter and general manager Alexandria Kemper, and Kemper’s fiancé, Rusty Roberts, comprise a management team that also oversees operations of the pier-based bait shop and concession stand.

Former Detroit Native Tony Savage is the executive chef, joined by assistant chef Mike Morabito.

When asked how it felt to be open after encountering unexpected delays, Kemper-Pena said, “We worked 18 hours days these past two months getting ready, but today made it all worthwhile.”

Pena and Kemper-Pena are both retired from the Army. One of their missions is to provide employment for fellow veterans like retired Marine Bradley Phillips.

Addressing the emphasis on hiring veterans, Kemper-Pena said, “They’re highly trained and we have structure here like the military, a chain of command like the military, and we are looking for more military employees.”

Military personnel who dine in uniform receive a discount, and a handshake thanking them for their service to the country.

Open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. the varied menus include breakfast items like fish and grits and breakfast sandwiches, burgers, a grouper sandwich, heart-shaped crab cakes, fish and chips, seafood entrees and baskets, fish tacos, steaks, pasta, kids’ meals, beer and wine and more.

The nautical-themed restaurant interior includes a pair of 70-inch televisions and free WiFi is available to patrons.

Thursday afternoon, Carolyn and Joe Snow, from Holmes Beach sat on the pier patio and described themselves as burger aficionados.

“The burgers were delicious, the service was great, and the atmosphere was beautiful,” Joe Snow said.

“They did a beautiful job inside,” Carolyn Snow added.

The new eatery and its accompanying entities are part of a partnership entered into with the city, with the municipality receiving rent and a percentage of revenues.

Saturday night, City Commissioner Janie Robertson and her companion, John Reed, dined inside, while The Russ Adams Project performed to a capacity crowd on the outside patio.

“Dinner at the Cast-n-Cage was delicious…very fresh fried oysters and yummy lemon chicken soup.” Robertson said.

“The city is excited to finally have a new restaurant open on our pier,” she added.

The building’s previously tenant, Rotten Ralph’s, is now operating as Ralph’s Mainland in Bradenton.

In regard to the partnership with the city, Kemper-Pena said, “They really came through for us, and they’ve really been a lot of help. They’ve been very cooperative.”

A grand opening celebration is now planned for March 1.

Heritage Day to feature early Island arts and crafts

ANNA MARIA –Learn about the history of the Island at the first Settler’s Market on Island Heritage Day Saturday, March 1, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Island Historical Museum complex at 402 Pine Ave., Anna Maria.

Artisans and crafts persons will be demonstrating arts and crafts as practiced by early Island settlers including keeping bees; spinning wool; making pine needle baskets, bonnets, soap and quilts; growing and using herbs, caning chairs and woodworking.

There will be arts and crafts demonstrations, tours of Belle Haven Cottage and the surrounding native plant garden, a boat exhibit from the Cortez Maritime Museum and a display featuring early Spanish settlers by rangers from De Soto National Memorial.

An authors’ corner will feature Carolyne Norwood with her two Island history books, “The Early Days” and “Tales of Three Cities;” Gilbert Smith with “Lawyers and Legends of Manatee County,” a history of lawyers in the county from 1885 to 2012; and Don Thompson with "Egmont Key, A History.”

Kids can participate in old fashioned games such as marbles, ball and cup, ring toss and bean bag with prizes from 10 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 4 p.m.

In addition, there will be bluegrass music by State Road 64 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and bluegrass and Americana music by the Howies from 1:30 to 4 p.m., food by KCB Barbecue and a drink booth manned by the AMI Community Center teens.

Sandpiper height allowance approved

joe hendricks | sun

Bradenton Attorney William Robinson Jr. ruled
in favor of Sandpiper resident Doug LeFevre’s
variance request

BRADENTON BEACH – Things soon will be looking up for residents at the Sandpiper Resort. Literally. Serving as special master for the city of Bradenton Beach, William Robinson Jr. granted resident Doug LeFevre a variance to replace a ground-level mobile home with an elevated manufactured home that will have a maximum height of 25 feet above the crown of the adjacent road.

LeFevre plans to place his single-story home on a structure that allows for ground-level parking below. Once completed, his new home will join the other 164 units found in the resort community located along Gulf Drive, at the north end of the city.

LeFevre asked for the variance during a January hearing that took place at city hall. He said he wanted the additional height in order to protect his investment from flooding.

In order to do so, he needed permission to exceed the 15-foot height limit allowed the M-1 zoning district that applies to the Sandpiper Resort and the Pines Mobile Home Park on the other side of town.

City staff supported LeFevre’s request and told Robinson they would soon propose changes to the city’s land development code that, if approved by the city commission, would provide greater height allowances for all homes located in the city’s two M-1 districts.

During the hearing, other Sandpiper residents expressed support for LeFevre’s request and spoke in favor of residents being able to elevate new and existing homes to greater heights.

LeFevre’s request and Robinson’s ruling come at a time when flood insurance premiums are rising and more stringent flood elevation regulations loom on the horizon.

New policy for pier restrooms

BRADENTON BEACH – Public restrooms and showers on the city pier soon will be locked at all times and accessible only with a key, following a recent incident of vandalism.

The Pier Team advisory board approved the lock and key approach after a male using the ladies restroom trashed the place when he discovered there was no toilet paper.

The restrooms and showers, which now are open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., soon will require a key available at the bait shop, concession stand or restaurant during regular operating hours.

Once the self-locking locksets are installed, the restrooms and showers will be inaccessible after the bait shop and restaurant close for the evening.

Plans call for the bait shop to eventually operate around the clock, but that remains a work in progress.

Bait shop manager Rusty Roberts said he would require the presentation of a photo ID prior to issuing restroom keys after dark.

The Pier Team advisory board agreed that locking the facilities was a better solution than asking public works or the police department to unlock the doors in the morning and lock them in the evening.

In regard to the act of vandalism, Police Chief Sam Speciale said he has video footage and a photograph that leads him to believe the unidentified culprit is not a resident of the anchorage or a member of the homeless community.

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