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SHELL SHOCKED: What Islanders do during the summer

By Staff | May 7, 2010

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This is the time of year when the snowbirds head north.  We’re

 

reaching the end of another snowbird season and summer awaits Sanibel.  The weather throughout the rest of the country will now come close to what our beloved island offers all year long.

 

The snowbirds, whom we will label "irregulars", maintain their Sanibel residences from November through early May.  They are now in the

 

process of boarding up their condos and houses.  They pack up their cars,

 

forgetting what they brought with them in November and what they now need to take north.  Another winter season has passed, the ice up north has melted and it’s time to move on.

 

The irregulars disconnect their premium cable stations for the

 

summer, sort out their north/south wardrobes, shutter the windows, turn off the water, bid a fond farewell to their favorite wildlife, pack up their

 

cars and hit the road.

 

Hello, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Canada and other winter

 

cold spots.  The weather is warming up and here they come.  Gone but not

 

forgotten.

 

Around the middle of summer, things seem different around Sanibel.  The irregulars are gone, the stampede of reveling vacationers is over and the year round residents and businesses are left with – each other.

 

The restaurants which played to standing room only crowds in March now have a few empty tables (although no one would ever admit it).

 

The real estate brokers,  not particularly happy over how the past two years

 

have gone, are hoping that their inventory will begin to move again this

 

fall.  It’s the summer doldrums – or as the true year-round Sanibel resident

 

would put it, "now it’s our time." As they now wave goodbye to the

 

irregulars until the fall, the full time residents take a collective sigh of

 

relief.  They can look forward to a relaxing summer which they feel is the

 

most exciting time of the year to them anyway.

 

That’s when they come out of their shells (no pun intended) and

 

really become themselves.  In fact, they keep the true excitement of summer on Sanibel to themselves because their worst fear is that the irregulars and the revelers will change their plans and stay on.

 

But what exactly goes on in Sanibel during the summer months?

 

What do the regulars do?  The most exciting celebration in Sanibel starts in

 

June when the annual painting of the white line down the middle of

 

Sanibel-Captiva Road is completed.  A gala beach party takes place with all

 

the regulars on hand to raise their glasses in a mass toast to the new white

 

line.  Several residents are rumored to paint their bodies with leftover

 

paint and perform native Sanibel highway dances.

 

In July comes the spirited causeway dollar counting extravaganza.  The eldest sons of all Sanibel families are given the honor to count all the dollar bills collected during tourist months and carry them in fish nets to the steps of city hall.  Sanibel’s share of the counted dollars are sorted and deposited in huge underground vaults under city hall.

 

August is shell planting season on the beaches of Sanibel.  This

 

is when all the rare shells found by island visitors during the winter

 

season are bought from online delivery services and scattered on the beach.

 

The regulars remove the sales labels from the shells as best they can so

 

that when the visitors return in season they can begin their search once

 

again for rare shells – and find them.

 

September and October are particularly busy months on Sanibel.

 

This time period is the final month of privacy for the regulars.  But it’s

 

the final phase of tourist preparedness as well.  These are the months that

 

alligators are borrowed from the Everglades, the wildlife is consigned from

 

the Bronx Zoo for the season, the hurricanes are manufactured by George

 

Lucas Special Effects Laboratories and the dolphins are placed in the waters

 

by Disney Studios.

 

Come November, the irregulars return in their cars to open their winter residences to find that nothing has changed during their absence.

 

The fact that nothing has changed has created a very busy summer season of lots of work and preparation by the regulars.