This island is full of its own traditions. Here's what a Thanksgiving Day on Longboat Key might look like.
Thanksgiving is the quintessential fall holiday, conjuring up images of red and brown leaves, pumpkins and all those warm and fuzzy feelings.
But we’re in Florida. The forecast for Thanksgiving Day is 78 degrees. So on Longboat, many of the sentiments are the same, just the follow-through on them is a little, well, different.
Some people take full advantage of the beautiful weather and get out on the water, though it’s not a huge day for boating, Cannons Marina Manager Jim Gallagher said. At the marina, the business itself is closed on Thanksgiving Day, but multiday boat rentals give those eager for a Thanksgiving aboard the chance to take to the seas.
“Actually, myself and my family, for years, go wakeboarding on Thanksgiving Day,” Gallagher said. “Because usually this time of year, the Gulf is just beautiful, perfectly calm, so it’s usually pretty nice on Thanksgiving too.”
In case you’re wondering, the Gulf temperature is about 72 degrees these days.
At the Longboat Key Tennis Center, it’s business as usual (for half a day) on Turkey Day. Elsewhere, folks roll out of bed for a Turkey Trot to get their bodies ready for the biggest meal of the year, but on Longboat Key, tennis still reigns as one of the most popular physical activities.
“It’ll be a busy place, and then all of a sudden, everyone’s gone to eat turkey,” Manager Kay Thayer said. “It makes it kind of nice to do a little bit of an activity before you stuff your face.”
There’s no Thanksgiving-specific tradition at the Tennis Center, but folks have made tennis on Thanksgiving a tradition of their own in their years on Longboat Key.
“Some people, now that they’re retired, these are their traditions because they’re not where they used to be, so it’s almost like a holiday here,” Thayer said. “They’re on a holiday. And on our holiday, we’re going to play tennis.”
For some people, their families will join the permanent holiday down south. Thayer said the Tennis Center sees more families than normal on the courts on that day.
“We also get our members that have family, and a lot of times the families come out in the morning also,” she said. “It’s kind of a family thing before it’s time to go get ready for Thanksgiving.”
For some, leaving the island for Thanksgiving is a tradition. After coming down for season and opening the house again, or after living in a tropical land for most of the year, many fly north to be with families on the holiday. It’s a time to pass the baton of responsibility for dinner, Longboat resident Arlene Skversky said.
Classic Thanksgiving traditions like football and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade are near and dear to the hearts of some Longboaters, such as the Klick family. Julie Klick, along with husband Paul and son William, head to Alabama to be with Julie’s stepfather. The parade is great entertainment in the morning while cooking, she wrote in an email, but football takes the TV the rest of the day — and weekend.
“We watch football the rest of the day when we are not eating or passed out on the sofa,” Julie wrote in an email. “Since I am involved with the fantasy football league with our family and helping William’s team, I am more involved in the NFL games this year than ever.”
Julie and William are first in their fantasy league this week and are hoping to keep up the good position. After the NFL wraps up, the family of University of Alabama fans settles in for the Iron Bowl game against Auburn on Saturday.
For those who stay on-island over Thanksgiving, dinner often takes place out of the house, though reservations might be hard to come by. It’s worth a try, even today.
The Lazy Lobster offers a special Thanksgiving menu and opens at noon. Harry’s Continental Kitchen is serving Thanksgiving dinner from noon to 8 p.m. Chart House is also open.
At Euphemia Haye, Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days of the year. Owners Ray and D’Arcy Arpke whisk delicious dinners out to more than 300 people in one day starting at 2 p.m. They serve the regular menu, adding a turkey special with pumpkin rum bisque, cranberry salad and a choice of dessert.
Ray starts his Thanksgiving around 5 or 6 a.m., depending on what prep he has and hasn’t gotten done yet. Preparing for the day began Nov. 21, and roasting the birds began Nov. 25, Ray said.
“My head goes down and doesn’t come up until the last dinner is served,” he said.
As for home, the Arpkes are used to not having the actual day of Thanksgiving off, sometimes adding in their own Thanksgiving later with family.
“If we go somewhere, he usually gets asked to carve the turkey,” D’Arcy said.
Thanksgiving reservations are already packed in by early November, so you have to act early if you want a seat at the table next year. Around Oct. 15 is usually when you can still get the times you want, Ray said.