From the serious to the whimsical, a lot took place last year.
11: Match this, Mr. Funny Guy
Sarasota resident Lori Davis makes an, um, impolite gesture to TV’s Joel McHale on ABC’s “Match Game’’ in its Jan. 3 debut. Davis, who owns JustaBasketCase Events in Gulf Gate, won the game’s $15,000 grand prize. Davis’ reaction, which she thought would be cut from the show, came after McHale fired a good-natured barb at Davis during the show. And though she got plenty of cheers from friends and well-wishers, a small minority gave her grief over a ruling that awarded her the grand prize (FYI: Match Game judges say “ship” and “yacht” are pretty much the same thing.)
* 11: We're running no matter what
On a morning more suited to hot chocolate than Gatorade, hundreds of runners turned out for the Andrew Monroe Memorial 5K on Siesta Beach. For the record, the low temperature that morning was 41. Connor Wozniak and Emma Paliotta were the top finishers.
1: It will be "this" tall
A bucket truck holds a flag 81 feet off the ground to demonstrate the height of a proposed seven-story building on the property of the Bath and Racquet Club. The city is still working through the process of examining the proposal for the property near Bee Ridge Road and South Tamiami Trail.
* 8: A question of security
The question of School Avenue, which bisects the campus of Sarasota High, is still being discussed. During school hours, the road is closed with gates to vehicular traffic, but pedestrians are allowed to walk on sidewalks. After school hours, or on weekends of holidays, the road is open. Proponents of closing the street on campus point to security concerns. Opponents say closing it would disrupt traffic in the neighborhood. The matter remains unsettled.
* 15: Mote on the move
By now, the artist rendering of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium's proposed attraction at Nathan Benderson Park near University Town Square is ubiquitous. Mote announced its plans to relocate its aquarium operation from City Island at a Feb. 8 press conference. The announcement also launched a $130 million fundraising campaign, and set target groundbreaking and opening dates in 2019 and 2021. The five-acre parcel was the first choice for the new Mote Science Education Aquarium. Moving the aquarium was designed to facilitate the expansion of Mote’s research work at its City Island campus. Mote hopes to eventually renovate that campus with state-of-the-art buildings. The move allows for expansion of the aquarium, too: The proposed four-story building at Benderson Park would be more than twice the size of the existing aquarium.
15: The winner is . . .
Democrat Margaret Good won a special election to the state house, defeating Republican James Buchanan for the District 72 seat vacated by Alex Miller. Good won re-election in November, and Buchanan won his own seat in District 73.
* 22: The lovingest day of the year
Lovebirds love to flock to Siesta Beach for the Day of Love celebration, and the 2018 version was no exception. One couple renewed vows after 50 years of marriage. In years previous, a couple married 45 minutes came to the event and renewed their vows.
* 8: Oodles of reading
Students across the region – and the nation -- paused to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ 115th birthday to do what came naturally – read one of his classic rhyming tales. Kids and teachers made the most of the day by dressing the part and getting a kick out of the written word.
* 15: Speaking up, walking out
Students in Sarasota took part in a national walkout to protest school violence in the wake of the mass shooting a month earlier at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. At 10 a.m., March 14, they broke the routine of the day and joined a national conversation on how to make schools safer.
22: A day at the races
No bets were made, but plenty of everyday dogs hit the track at Sarasota Kennel Club during the facility’s annual Mutt Derby. In the history of the 10th annual event, dogs have been known to run the wrong way, play with other dogs or simply stop and roll in the dirt.
* 29: Gotcha!
At least one person complained to City Manager Tom Barwin about the foolishness of tolls on the Legacy Trail. Gotcha! The Observer April Fools issue strikes again. In addition to the story about a Legacy Trail toll, we wrote about a shopping mall coming to City Island and city prudes demanding the statue of David on the city seal put some clothes on, already.
29: It tastes like water
Inspired by word that Sarasota County drinking water scored well in a recent taste test, we decided to find out for ourselves. So, we got all scientific and tasted county, city, Longboat Key and Publix water to see what we liked best. Oh, and a chef joined us. The winner? Well, er, uh…Publix.
5: Little green friends
This week we learned that a small family of monk parakeets loose on Siesta Key is likely a colony of released pets that have made themselves a “cheep” home on local utility poles.
* 12: A lot of fans
The production company for PBS’ Antique Roadshow came to Sarasota to tape an episode, receiving more than 15,000 requests for 3,500 pairs of tickets. The show will air in February.
* 20: Farewell tour
Twiggy the water-skiing squirrel performed at the 36th annual Suncoast Boat Show on April 20 as part of her farewell retirement tour. Twiggy made several performances during the two-day event at Marina Jack.
* 3: The Mayor of Palm Avenue
We’re not crying, you’re crying. OK, OK, we’re probably crying, but not as much as you. Palm Avenue neighbors and merchants celebrated the life of a dog whose cheery disposition endeared her to many. Dora, an 8-year-old Doberman, was ill and heading back up north for the summer – likely the last time her friends would see her. So, friends and family held a going-away party for the affable canine in a condo a Marina Tower.
* 10: A big decision
More than a year after a state agency announced its intent to permit the proposed dredging of Big Pass, an administrative judge recommended moving forward with the project — as long as the plans are modified to account for some environmental concerns.
Administrative law judge Bram Canter issued a recommended order that states the Florida Department of Environmental Protection should approve the plans, which would dredge Big Pass to renourish eroded segments of Lido Key. The approval should be contingent on the DEP prohibiting any dredging in some portions of Big Pass from April through September, a change designed to protect the spawning of spotted sea trout.
10: Sculpting in the sand
Building sand castles isn't something exclusively for kids. Teens, adults, and some kids spent hours on Siesta Beach sculpting a lot more than just castles during the annual Amateur Sand Sculpting Contest. Artists competed in four categories, which allowed pretty much anyone to get in on the fun.
17: Ice cream trucks face a rocky road
Ice cream trucks and vendors had a hard time in the city until discussion began focusing on why the once-ubiquitous staple of Americana was not allowed on city streets. "Frankly un-American'' was one description to come from the panel of elected officials as they decided to further look into the matter. Said ice cream vendor Brenda Zook: "It's always been kind of hard that I live in the city and pay taxes, but I'm not allowed to work in the city."
24: The real world beckons
About 2,700 seniors from nine schools around Sarasota County walked the stage and graduated in cap and gown ceremonies. Close to home, 560 graduated from Riverview High, 496 from Sarasota High and 253 Booker High.
* 31: 'We will never forget'
Through the drizzle of a late-May morning, hundreds paid Memorial Day respects at the Sarasota National Cemetery. They also heard the words of keynote speaker David Taylor, who spoke about his experiences in the Vietnam War and the loss of his best friend. "For us, they gave all. We will never forget,'' he said.
7: Captains courageous
Youth sailing campers ages 7-12 took to Sarasota Bay as part of their water-sports fun. Coaches sailed alongside the youngsters in many cases, offering them tips.
* 14: Images of Dad
We asked, and kids delivered -- pictures of Dad, that is. To mark Father's Day, we sought the help of art campers and gave them a simple assignment. Draw a picture of your dad, and we'll put it in the newspaper. Kayla Eskew, 14, and her friends did, and we did.
21: A new plan?
The Main Street movie theater has a new name, color scheme and theaters — highly visible changes that have, so far, not extended to the rest of the property surrounding Hollywood 11. The renovations to the movie theater don’t mean more changes are imminent for the Main Plaza complex in the 1900 block of Main Street. After a trio of local entrepreneurs bought the property for $18.1 million in 2015, the group indicated it would pursue an ambitious plan for improving the commercial center. More than two years later, there’s no clear vision for the future of the property.
* 28: Helping the bay help itself
In an effort to improve the water quality of Sarasota Bay, the Sarasota Bay Watch embarked on restoration efforts over the summer of southern hardshell clams. Clams help maintain the health of Sarasota Bay.
* 5: What's in a name
Longtime residents of Novus Place were surprised to learn that, technically, they weren’t actually living there. During a review of land records, Sarasota County officials discovered that the 2600 and 2700 blocks of what has locally been called Novus Place is officially Novus Street. Despite what those records say, for decades, the street has practically functioned as Novus Place. The street signs say Novus Place. The mail gets delivered to Novus Place. Emergency personnel respond to calls on Novus Place. Homeowners’ property records list them as living on Novus Place. And yet, something needed to be done to correct the discrepancy between the real world and county documents.
12: Three cheers for the red, white and blue
Thousands gathered for the big Fourth of July show at Siesta Beach and weren't disappointed. A downpour hours before cleared in time for fireworks and plenty of good times.
* 26: Sinking is just part of the fun
Cardboard and water typically means your package got left out in the rain. But in this case, the two disparate materials added up to fun when the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota embarked on the Rock the Boat Regatta. Yes, the boats were made of cardboard, and no it wasn't dangerous. Rather, it was a barrel of laughs as all manner of creatively designed craft plied the waters of the Lee Wetherington Club swimming pool.
26: Welcome ashore
Considering the time and effort spent each year protecting and preserving sea turtles and their nests, it’s no wonder the critters get as much ink as they do. At mid-season, turtle nesting was off a smidge from the year before, but that didn’t really set off any alarms. The previous seasons had been so successful, no one really expected that torrid pace to continue.
* 9: Red tide a blooming mess
Beginning Aug. 3, county officials began responding to what longtime residents have described as a particularly strong red tide bloom. From July 26 to Aug. 2, the state recorded elevated levels of Karenia brevis algae, a microscopic organism which produces toxins that can kill fish and other wildlife, along the southwest coast of Florida. The outbreak lasted weeks and hit many merchants hard in the late summer vacation season.
16: Back to school
Fresh from weeks of summer vacation, kids headed back to school with (mostly) smiles on their faces. About 43,000 pupils countywide showed up for the first day of classes, in some cases consoling moms and dads that everything was going to be just fine.
* 30: Incumbents rule on Election Day
After hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on campaigns, two Sarasota County School Board races were decided by a margin of about 1 percentage point — but in the end, the board remained unchanged headed into a new term. Incumbents Bridget Ziegler, Shirley Brown and Jane Goodwin all won re-election to the School Board.
6: Dog and owner back together
Another dog story, but this one with a happy ending. Shane Hale thought he had lost Harley forever when the 5-year-old dachshund floated off during a boating emergency in the Gulf of Mexico. As it happened, Hale wasn't exactly safe when his sailboat foundered and began sinking. Still, he thought he had seen the last of Harley. But the next day, a couple in Venice found Harley on the beach, and called Hale with the number on Harley's collar. "It blows my mind,'' Hale said.
* 13: Bayfront plan moves ahead
With the plan to redevelop 53 acres of city-owned bayfront, attention turned to how, how much and when. To build the master plan to completion, it's going to take about $340 million to $470 million of public and private dollars. Leaders today are organizing a governance plan, and from there, decisions on phasing, timing and more will be figured out. But, the Bayfront redevelopment is under way.
* 11: Now arriving . . .
It began in January, when Allegiant Airlines announced it would begin flying from Sarasota to Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. Then, Frontier Airlines announced flights to Atlanta, Cleveland and Philadelphia, and American Airlines launched routes to Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago and Philadelphia. But to top the year off, Allegiant said it would expand even further in 2019, adding nine more nonstop flights from SRQ.
18: The heroes we need
Superheroes, such as Lucas and Lilly Schaeffer with Skye and Paxton Schermerhorn, joined villains, witches, fairies and robots in taking over Ed Smith Stadium for this year’s Howl-O-Ween Movie Night Spooktacular.
18: Setting sail
Sailors from around the world converged on City Island for the annual Formula 18 championship regatta. Before the racing began in Sarasota Bay, the 160 sailors for 14 nations held an opening ceremony that put the emphasis on the event's international flavor.
* 8: Voters liked what they saw
Voters are ready for change, particularly when it comes to how they choose local government representatives. On Election Day, residents approved two proposals that modify city and county commission elections. The charter amendments won’t take effect until 2020, but already, supporters of the changes are optimistic the new election setups will have a significant effect on both governmental bodies. They also approved controversial measures regarding county-owned waterfront property, Beach Road on Siesta Key and the multi-million extension of Legacy Trail into Downtown.
* 8: Like father, like son
Election night was a particularly successful night for the Buchanan family. Vern Buchanan, who represents much of the area in the U.S. House of Representatives, was re-elected to his post and son James Buchanan won a seat in the Florida House of Representatives.
8: Vroom, vroom
A car show with a distinctly Italian flair took to St. Armands Circle, much to the glee of car lovers and amateur photography buffs. Sponsored by a Ferrari owners club, the car show raises money annually for Shriners' Children's Hospital. About 35 cars were on display.
15: For all who served, thank you
Patriotic people young and old crowded Main Street to pay tribute to those who served in uniform. The theme of the annual Veterans Day Parade was "Some Gave All, All Gave Some'' in honor of Vietnam War-era veterans and women who served. Young K.C. Riley was among those along the parade route who showed off their patriotism.
* 15: Helping the beach
Around 185,000 cubic yards of sand will be removed from New Pass and used for emergency renourishment of nearby Lido Key. In May, the city declared a local state of emergency for Lido Beach because of beach erosion. The effects on New Pass will be assessed after the project is finished, and it's possible the U.S. Coast Guard could take a new look at restoring the channel markers.
22: That's no dog
Coyotes are not just the nuisance animal du jour on Longboat Key. Residents of Sarasota neighborhoods started reporting them as well. Laurel Park, Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores and Avondale were among the neighborhoods recently visited. And the advice given residents: Be alert but don't panic. Coyotes are common in all 67 counties of Florida -- and a lot of other places.
* 29: Requiem for a heavyweight
On the day after the final piece of his resort empire came tumbling town, the Sarasota area lost a giant: Dr. Murray "Murf" Klauber. The force behind the once iconic and world-famous Colony Beach & Tennis Resort died in his Longboat Key home with family alongside. Friends and former employees said Klauber influenced their own lives and business practices.
6: Here comes Santa Claus
Santa Claus and his wife, Mrs. Claus, made their climactic arrivals in Sarasota during the annual Downtown Holiday Parade, the annual extravaganza down Main Street that ceremonially kicks off the holiday season.
* 13: It's a yes for promenade proposal
After months of discussion, application, revision, opposition and a few more "ions," County Commissioners in a series of votes approved the plan to build Siesta Promenade, at the corner of Stickney Point Road and Tamiami Trail. Residents and others opposed to the project spoke for hours before the commission with their objections based on building height, expected traffic at an already crowded intersection and in residential neighborhoods.
* 13: City goes for the green
City Commissioners decided to go all in on renovations to the municipal golf course along Fruitville Road -- Bobby Jones Golf Club. The plan is to retool drainage and irrigation on the course's 45 holes and build a new clubhouse. The total cost is $16.7 million with no guarantee the facility will return to self-sustainability while paying off the new work while also meeting typical operating costs.
(Reporting and photos by David Conway, Amelia Hanks, Shane Donglasan, Cassidy Alexander and Eric Garwood)