- March 18, 2021
Without that telltale chill creeping in and snow flurries fluttering down, how do you really know it’s Christmas on Longboat Key? To the trained eye, there are sights on and around this island that clue in the culmination of cheer. Here’s how you can tell it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas on Longboat Key.
The tree lighting tradition is solidifying as the town of Longboat Key and the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce held the third annual Light Up Longboat event on Nov. 27. The goal is to add more lights to the five oaks in Town Center Green every year until they’re fully covered in glittering blue. This year, the oaks were wrapped in lights up to their branches, and the retaining wall around the trees had a few strands of lights on it, as well.
This was the largest crowd ever at the event, and 10 local organizations set up booths to dole out information and holiday treats.
Longboat Key area businesses started to see the busy-ness of the holiday season in the run-up to Thanksgiving. Heather Rippy, owner of Driftwood Beach Home and Garden at Whitney Beach Plaza, is experiencing her first season in business and said that holiday shoppers started sooner than expected.
“Definitely in the last two weeks I had a lot of people both browsing and shopping,” Rippy said. “Someone asked for Christmas wrapping in September. It made me uncomfortable to have Christmas stuff out so early, but even the day before Thanksgiving, I sold a ton of Christmas decorations.”
Rippy is devoted to supporting small businesses like hers and stocks a lot of locally made ornaments. They’ve sold well, but she said she can easily get more.
Meanwhile, on St. Armands Circle, businesses enjoyed a busy day on Nov. 27. Just/Because owner Barbara Pugliese, who is the chair for the St. Armands region of American Express’ Small Business Saturday, said she had waves of people throughout the day.
The town has put out a Toys for Tots bin since 1998 and every year, the season ends with a full-to-bursting bin of bounty for local kids. Even before Thanksgiving, the bin in Town Hall had several items in it. The bin will be accepting toys until the end of the second week of December.
At Symphony Massage in Harbour Square, they’re starting a new tradition. The new business put out its own Toys for Tots bin, which is guarded by a friendly and festive Jack Skellington.
When palm trees gain ornaments and shells don the boughs, Christmastime is here. Several stores have put their most festive foot forward in the past week, including Driftwood Beach Home and Garden and Design 2000. The businesses, which are next-door neighbors in Whitney Beach Plaza, are now decked out in Floridian cheer.
At Driftwood Beach, Rippy put out several small velvet and shell-encrusted trees flanking the center-stage spruce with locally made ornaments on its boughs. Next door at the salon, co-owner Irina LaRose put up their tree the day after Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, south on St. Armands Circle, tons of shops put out their decorations for the first big shopping weekend of the season, including Apricot Lane Boutique and Just/Because, who both welcomed customers with a festive display at the front of the store.
Longboat Key Salvation Army bell ringing organizer Chris Sachs deemed Nov. 26 “Bell Friday” rather than Black Friday, as it was the first day of the bell-ringing season. Volunteer Debbi Wilson staffed the bell in front of Publix in the afternoon on the first day and said that donations came in spurts, but that people were being very generous.
St. Armands Key Lutheran Church bell ringer Kathy Kussy was busy on Nov. 27 and said she passed heavy crowds on her way to her spot on the Longboat Key-bound spoke of the Circle.
Both locations consistently vie for the top spot in the area’s bell-ringing donations, but St. Armands took the honors last year. The annual $20-for-$20 matching will be going on this year, in which $20 bills are matched by an anonymous donor.
It’s peppermint mocha time at Turtle Coffee Bar and the Thirsty Snail. Both locations serve both tea and coffee (though Thirsty Snail specializes in bubble tea) and have a peppermint mocha tea latte. Turtle Coffee Bar also has a holiday coffee blend with wintry spices, and Thirsty Snail is coming out with their holiday menu any day now.
On the tea side of things, they’ll have a gingerbread milk tea and a frosted cranberry tea, while their coffee offerings will include a cookie butter latte, iced chocolate mint latte and a gingerbread latte. They’ve also got a homemade hot chocolate mix.