SHELL SHOCKED: What Islanders do during the summer
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
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.