As Bob Parkinson puts it, “Timing is everything.”
He and his wife, Eileen, already had become more involved with the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce after moving to the island full-time about two-and-a-half years ago. Then one day, they walked into the chamber office just after a meeting had concluded on plans to hold the first Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master Sandsculpting Competition. The event would feature internationally known sandsculptors creating massive designs out of the Key’s almost pure quartz sand.
Eileen says Jim Haberman, then the chamber’s executive director, greeted the couple, and said, “You know, we’re looking for someone to chair the organizing committee ... ”
“And in a weak moment … ” Eileen says, prompting laughter from Bob. “We thought, ‘Well, this is really a great way to achieve our objective of getting to know the community and more people … ’”
“And giving something back,” Bob adds, completing Eileen’s sentence. “The success of this (first) event was so far beyond anybody’s expectations, (but) we both grew some additional gray hairs.”
It’s no wonder the Parkinsons finish each other’s sentences. They not only have been married for 50 years, but also they have been working alongside each other more recently in a consulting business called Trident Communications. (The firm’s third partner lives in Chicago.)
They work with companies or groups within companies on presentation and communication skills and preparation for media events. They also help executives prepare for major speeches.
“So we’re still busy,” Bob says. “We’re still doing a lot of traveling.”
Although airline connections aren’t as simple with Sarasota as their home base instead of their previous home, Chicago, the advantages of living on the Key more than outweigh that. Still, Bob confesses, it took a bit of time to get adjusted to their new way of life.
The Parkinsons first came to Siesta Key around 1970 to visit Eileen’s parents, who were living in a condo.
“We drove around and we thought, ‘This is beautiful,’” Bob says.
They decided they would move to the Key one day and finally bought a house in 1987.
“We were never snowbirds,” Eileen says. “We would come and go.”
Bob’s work as a professor at Northwestern University provided them with plenty of breaks to head south, they point out.
One morning shortly after their move, Bob was headed downtown for a business meeting when the opening of the north bridge stopped him.
“I’m looking at my watch and getting annoyed,” he says, but it didn’t take long for the bridge to close, and he made it to his appointment.
When he relayed his frustration about the delay to the person he was meeting, the man remarked he had encountered a similar incident when he first moved to Sarasota. The man told Bob he got out of his vehicle and kicked the tires, he was so frustrated. Then, he stopped and looked at the water and found himself staring at a beautiful sailboat — the reason the bridge had opened was to let it pass.
“When you’re here, you’re here, and this is the place to be,” Bob says.
Showing off Siesta and the greater Sarasota area is a big part of the Crystal Classic, which will be held for the second time Nov. 10-14, on the Siesta Public Beach. More than 40,000 people attended last year’s event, which benefited Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Conservation program. Admission is $5 per day, or $10 for a three-day pass.
Eileen says one factor that makes the Crystal Classic unique is the involvement of so many people and organizations in the community, including the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Sarasota County Parks and Recreation and the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Without any one of those entities, we would not have been as successful,” she says. “Sometimes it’s a headache, but we have never regretted doing this. It’s a labor of love.”
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