4th of July weekend crowds return to Anna Maria Island

AMI privateers lead the way aboard the Skullywag for the annual 4th of July parade. – Kristin Swain | Sun

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – The island was packed and traffic stretched over a mile to get to the island for most of the weekend as everyone from international visitors to local Floridians poured in to the AMI beaches to enjoy the sun for the 4th of July holidays.

Major holidays are always a big draw as visitors seek to beat the summer heat.

“We were from Orlando. The traffic was insane, but it’s worth it to be on one of the best beaches in the world,” said Carlos Ramirez, who was visiting Coquina Beach with his wife and four children. “It took forever to get a parking space, and now that we have one, we’re not leaving. We brought food to grill and we are here until sunset.

Ramirez was lucky to get a parking space. On Monday, July 4, cars were lined up bumper to bumper, with drivers hoping a parking space would become available on the beaches.

After the sun set on Saturday evening, visitors continued to flock to the island for the return of the annual Sandbar Restaurant fireworks after a sabbatical due to COVID-19.

And the 4th of July parade of privateers from Anna Maria Island delighted beachgoers and further slowed traffic on the island’s two main roads on Monday.

“The beaches are incredibly crowded. We barely have room to ride our ATVs because there are so many people there,” said Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer.

Tokajer also addressed the use of the Anna Maria Elementary parking lot for overflow parking. The bundle was free to use on July 2, 3, and 4, but not without controversy.

“The school was open for parking on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, but really it shouldn’t have been,” Tokajer said. “County Administrator Scott Hopes told Superintendent Cynthia Saunders that he would have the crosswalk flashing beacon installed by the 4th of July weekend and it was not. It was a situation dangerous with people crossing the road with their families carrying beach gear in an area without a proper pedestrian crossing.

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